Archive for Sunday, July 15, 2012

Grass fire briefly closes U.S. 56 west of Baldwin City

July 15, 2012


Douglas County firefighters and those from two neighboring counties battled a “complex” series of grassfires late Sunday afternoon along U.S. Highway 56 just northwest of Baldwin City.

Palmyra Fire Chief Randy DeMersseman said the fire was first reported around 5 p.m. at a site north of U.S. Highway 56 and east of East 1600 Road. His department, the Baldwin City Fire Department, units from Lawrence-Douglas County Fire Medical and rural fire department from Douglas, Franklin and Johnson counties would eventually battle three different fires in the late afternoon heat along one and a half miles of U.S. 56.

A stretch of the highway west of Baldwin City was closed to traffic for a while, and law enforcement officers rerouted traffic along county roads.

The mutual aid units were released about 9 p.m. when the only remaining flames were those from a backfire set to prevent grassfires from spreading in the event winds shifted or increased during the night, DeMersseman said.

One firefighter was taken to Lawrence Memorial Hospital for treatment from a heat-related condition, DeMersseman said.

“It was a very complex fire,” he said. “The reason we called in so much help was because of the heat and the amount of fuel out there.”

Those in vehicles passing by during the fire handed out bottled water to firefighters, and one property owner brought water, too.

“It was a group effort, and a very impressive group effort,” he said.

No structures were lost in the fire, DeMersseman said. A double-crop soybean field planted in wheat stubble was destroyed in the easternmost part of the fire, he said. That fire spread about a quarter mile north of the highway, he said.

DeMersseman said the cause of the fires wasn’t known but added that there was plentiful fuel for grassfires in the current dry conditions.

“We have no evidence of what started the fires,” he said. “This is what could happen day or night with just the smallest fire.

“We don’t have a burn ban in the county. Everybody has been hoping we’d have significant rainfall. There’s a lot of fuel along the roadsides that just needs a little spark. Everybody needs to be very, very careful.”


lbl3 5 years, 9 months ago

I was traveling on 56 highway to Baldwin today at 5:20 pm. I saw the man in a Ford pickup pulling the smoker, he sets up in the grocery store parking lot in Baldwin, pulled over at Worden church with the smoker on fire. Ummm...I'm pretty sure that is what caused the massive outburst of fires West of Baldwin today. Its so obvious. How have authorities not pieced that together yet?

somebodynew 5 years, 9 months ago

Maybe because they weren't following this guy and no one has told them about it ????

lbl3 5 years, 9 months ago

The fire department put his fire out and there was a sheriff there as well. I saw them on my way back home.

Williewoo 5 years, 9 months ago

Ibl3 is right about the cause of the fire.

I just called the fire department, and they confirmed that the smoker caused the fire.

Geez, is it SOP to drive down the road with a lighted smoker? Maybe the guy thought the smoker wasn't hot, but it was.

Next time, how about making sure? People live around here, you know.

Many thanks to all the fire crews and police who responded.

lbl3 5 years, 9 months ago

Thanks for confirming williewoo. I just knew that had to be the cause! I'm glad no one got hurt or lost their home. what a stupid mistake!! Very scary.

Williewoo 5 years, 9 months ago

It WAS scary!

Couldn't see how close the fire was 'cause we're surrounded tall trees, but the billowing black smoke indicated that several fires were headed this way. We threw some things in the car and evacuated.

Very sorry for the burned fields and ruined crops, but if the fire had spread to Vinland Valley it would have been a disaster.

neverwrong 5 years, 9 months ago

This guy has a criminal background, a recent foreclosure, and now starting fires due to negligence. What a nuisance to society.

lbl3 5 years, 9 months ago

Hope he has good insurance on his business. :)

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