LANE COUNTY — A wall of black smoke obscured any view of the eastern horizon in Lane County on Monday as what was the largest grassfire in the county this year enveloped miles of prairie in flames.
Lane County’s largest fire of 2017 reportedly started around noon and was blazing near the intersection of County Road 80 and Turkey Red Road at mid-afternoon.
With sustained winds of 35 to 40 mph and gusts reaching 60 mph, according to the National Weather Service, conditions were ripe for the fire to travel southeast.
As of 9 p.m., the fire was considered under control, but firefighters were continuing to eye hot spots, according to Lane County Sheriff Bryan Kough.
Kough said the fire spanned more than 13 miles east to west and at least five miles from north to south, burning an unconfirmed number of structures to the ground and even creeping into Ness County.
The fire is believed to have begun near the intersection of County Road 80 and Turkey Red Road, and the cause remains unknown.
High winds caused the fire to travel quickly over cropland and CR2 grasses, raising a thick black barrier of smoke in the process.
It remains unconfirmed how many acres of cropland were consumed, but the dispatcher at the sheriff’s office billed it as the largest fire in Lane County this year.
Debris, dust and smoke cultivated a dangerous environment of low visibility. One ambulance was involved in an accident that caused significant, visible damage to the front of the vehicle.
Firefighters worked with farmers in tractors to contain the fire by disking the land and creating fire breaks on multiple fronts while firefighters chased the fast moving flames across the prairie.
Earlier Monday, the Kansas Highway Patrol reported strong winds had blown over four semi trucks along or near Interstate 70 between Colby and Grainfield, and blowing dust was making visibility difficult.
Statewide, grass fires shut down I-70 between Russell and Sylvan Grove, and fires were reported in Clark, Cheyenne, Commanche, Ellsworth, Hodgeman, Ford, Meade, Pratt, Rawlins, Rice, Reno, Smith, Stevens and Rooks counties. Residents of Wilson in central Kansas were told to evacuate homes due to fears of fire moving north of I-70.
In Garden City, two small grass fires were reported on Sunday and Monday, the causes of which are unknown.
On Monday, the Garden City Fire Department responded to a call at 1 p.m. on a reported grass fire on Lincoln Road and Jones Avenue.
According to Fire Chief Allen Shelton, about a half-acre burned. Firefighters spent about 40 minutes on the scene.
On Sunday, firefighters responded at 12:27 p.m. to a grass fire at the intersection of the U.S. Highway 83/50 bypass and Kansas Avenue, near the on-ramp close to the Comfort Inn, 2608 E. Kansas Ave.
Shelton said that blaze burned less than an acre, and firefighters were on scene for about an hour.
There were no reported losses from either fire.
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