By BECKY KISER
Rural Hays resident Jess Braun wasn’t really worried about her house during Tuesday’s wildfire just east of Hays along Interstate 70.
Fanned by northwest winds with gusts up to 54 mph, the fire that started on the north side of I-70 jumped the road and continued burning under a bridge and south towards Braun’s house just outside the city limits.
Braun was most concerned about the safety of her six pets inside the house.
“They’re family,” she said Wednesday morning.
She had stopped in at the Ellis County Emergency Services building in Hays to thank the Ellis County Rural Fire Department, but discovered the firefighters were still monitoring the scene of Tuesday’s second big wildfire near Catharine.
Braun also brought freshly made scones from her bakery at the Otter Juice Company.
“We just baked these this morning for the firefighters,” she said.
“I want to thank them for keeping the fire from our house, and our pets were all fine,” she told Megan Carver, administrative assistant for Emergency Management and Rural Fire.
Carver was working the phone, helping organize a Local Disaster Emergency Declaration for Ellis County that will be given to the Kansas Division of Emergency Management.
Braun was out of town when she got a phone call about the approaching fire east of 27th and Commerce. Her husband, Curt, who had been at work, tried to drive to the house to collect the animals, but traffic was diverted from the area because of the dangerous blaze and blowing smoke.
Once Jessica Braun was back in Hays, she immediately drove toward her home. Local traffic still was blocked at the intersection, but a Hays police officer recognized Braun and allowed her to go through to her home and remove her three dogs and three cats.
“I was like, let the house burn, just let me get my dog. … (The pets) weren’t stressed at all,” laughed Braun, “just kind of wondering what I was doing at home at that time of day.”
She told Carver the firefighters remained near her house Tuesday evening watching for hotspots and flareups. The field grass around the structure had been plowed earlier to help keep the fire from approaching.
“We didn’t have any damage,” Braun said with a sigh of relief.