HILL CITY, Kan. (AP) — The sweltering streets of Hill City, Kan. are desolate. There's just one car at the local pizza parlor, another at the nearby sandwich shop.
But at 2 Lane Liquor, business has been brisk as temperatures soar past 111 degrees. Customers are buying a lot of beer.
"Everybody comes in and says, 'I am hot, I am thirsty,'" said liquor store owner Jeff Parsons.
His family — like many others in this northwest Kansas town — is taking refuge indoors during this heat wave, playing board games and watching movies. Even softball games have been canceled.
"It feels like almost winter, the way we are acting, compared to summer and being out," said Parsons, who noted his family usually goes fishing and plays at the lake. And just stepping outside for a few minutes takes your breath away, he said.
All of Kansas except the southwestern corner is under heat-related warnings, with high temperatures forecast through the weekend. And high winds combined with the searing heat have put the state at risk for fires that could spread quickly as the Fourth of July holiday approaches.
A red flag warning is in effect for northwestern sections through Wednesday, signaling a serious risk of fire due to high temperatures, strong winds and low humidity.
Temperatures topped 100 degrees in at least 20 communities Tuesday, with readings of 110 in Dodge City and Goodland, 111 at Hays and Great Bend, 112 in Russell and 115 at Hill City.
More oppressive conditions were forecast. By Tuesday evening, the National Weather Service had posted an excessive heat warning — the highest level of caution — for 49 of Kansas' 105 counties. The warning was effective from Tuesday until 8 p.m. Thursday in some areas, and from noon Wednesday to 7 p.m. Friday in others.
Kirk Schweitzer, director of the Graham County Economic Development Office in Hill City, said residents are seeking ways to cool off.
"As a community, our theatre has never been busier, attendance is way up at the pool," he said. "We have been through hot spells before and drought before, so I think we are managing well."
But Schweitzer can't help but wonder about how the forecast will affect attendance at the county fair this weekend, and he is concerned about the economic impact on this agricultural and energy-producing region.
Across the state, there is little chance for rain through Sunday.
"When summer's here and it's getting hot, temperatures over 100, everything just kind of dries out," said Terry Maple, acting Kansas Fire Marshal. "It's dry as a bone again."
Several communities have been monitoring their water supplies to ensure they have enough to deal with any possible fire, particularly with upcoming holiday, he said.
"We're encouraging folks to be responsible with any fireworks or any activity like grilling, especially on those days when there are red flag warnings. Those dry conditions can lead to some significant events," he said.
There aren't many sections of the state that have been spared from the heat wave, which has arrived in Kansas about a month ahead of schedule, Maple said.
"We're just asking everyone to be fire-conscious and fire safe, whether you're camping at the lake ... or you have open flames on anything. And pay attention locally to what burn bans and things are in place."
Maple said recent forest fires in nearby Colorado and New Mexico have raised awareness about the dangers of summer blazes. And while Kansas doesn't have the deep forests of those states, there is plenty of combustible material — dry pasture lands, stubble and tall fescue grasses that can burn rapidly.
"We have a lot of open space and a lot of spaces that have the fuel for fire," he said, "and when we have the high winds, and it's almost 80 degrees at 5:30 this morning and then you have strong southerly winds ... we really need to be on top of it. Everybody that deals with it, it's on their radar screen."