Grass fire closes part of I-70

Salina Journal – April 21, 2014

Firefighters were battling a grass fire fanned by high north winds Monday afternoon near Glendale, about 15 miles west of Salina.
“It’s a bad one,” said Lane Johnson, a member of the Brookville Fire Department, shortly after 5 p.m.
Firefighters with a number of fire departments were in the fight, he said. Word was a train sparked the blaze in several places as it traveled through the Glendale area about 3:30 p.m.
Smoke caused a 5-mile stretch of Interstate Highway 70 – between 12 and 17 miles west of Salina – to be closed for a time in both directions, said Kansas Highway Patrol trooper Ben Gardner. The highway was reopened about 5:35 p.m. There were multiple crashes, he said, one involving five vehicles. Two drivers were taken to Salina Regional Health Center. Smoke and low visibility were contributing factors.
“There is traffic coming into the area that is not prepared for what is rapidly approaching,” Gardner said. “Dispatch is swamped.”
Johnson’s father, Ralph, was on a tractor north of Brookville, watching the smoke cloud grow and worrying about his son and the other firefighters.
“Seems like it’s getting bigger and bigger. I don’t know what’s going to stop it,” Ralph Johnson said.
Lane Johnson said some of the fires had made it to the interstate.
“We’re starting to get some of it under hand, but it’s not real great yet,” he said. “We’re trying to put out fires around people’s houses. I’m guessing one house was evacuated, but they may still be in there.”
Others were moving cattle out of the fire’s path. Lane Johnson said he was not aware of any injuries.
“The wind is blowing it like crazy,” he said at 5:05. “I gotta go.”
Winds in Salina were gusting to 19 mph at 5 p.m.
Interstate Highway 70 was closed in both directions and traffic was being re-routed about 4:45 p.m. Monday between mile markers 235 and 240, just west of Salina, because of visibility issues caused by smoke from a large grass fire, a Kansas Highway Patrol spokesman said.
Trooper Ben Gardner said emergency responders were also dealing with an injury crash between two semitrailers in that area.

Gwen Romine, KSFFA Webmaster