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February 26, 2014

K-42 reopens after smoke from grass fire forces shutdown

A grass fire prompted authorities to close K-42 southwest of Wichita for nearly an hour on Wednesday afternoon because smoke reduced visibility to zero, authorities said.

A grass fire prompted authorities to close K-42 southwest of Wichita for nearly an hour on Wednesday afternoon because smoke reduced visibility to zero, authorities said.

The fires were reported shortly after 12:30 p.m., with numerous grass fires reported from near MacArthur Road and points south, a Sedgwick County dispatch supervisor said. The Kansas Highway Patrol closed K-42 at MacArthur for about an hour as a precaution.

Sedgwick County Fire Chief Gary Curmode estimated at least 100 acres burned along K-42 from South 119th Street West to South 199th Street West. He called the fires “pretty unusual” because it appears they ignited at several places along the highway rather than spreading from a single source.

Curmode said Tuesday evening that, based witness statements, the fires may have been caused by a car part that sparked as it dragged along the pavement or by someone shooting fireworks out of a car window. Anyone with additional information is asked to call Sedgwick County fire investigators at 316-660-3492.

Curmode said despite moisture brought by recent snows, there is still a chance grasses and plants could ignite if they comes in contact with anything hot. He urged motorists to avoid tossing cigarette butts and other heated materials roadside.

“We’re had some of our worst grass fires over the years in the winter months,” Curmode said.

He added: “It’s very dry out in the fields, trees and hedge rows right now. People think we got a little snow, but it takes a lot more than that to prevent fires.”

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