Grass fire threatens traffic

BUTLER COUNTY, Kan. (KAKE) -

Wildfires caused major problems for Butler County and drivers trying to get through, as poor visibility led to the closures of Highway 77 and the turnpike Friday evening.

"I've been here 35 or 40 minutes already. And I'm getting tired of it,” said Bobby Elkins.

Elkins was one of dozens of drivers stuck on what looked like a parking lot, instead of Highway 77 near El Dorado. Fires burned inches from the road, and thick smoke and flames forces Elkins and others to stop.

"It happens all the time when you're a truck driver. You see a lot of stuff out here, causes stuff like this. You get 
used to it,” added Elkins.

The grassfire spread so quickly that it jumped the highway in less than an hour.

"It's not something that happens every year. With the conditions like they are this year being so dry and the grass so high, the wind like it is today. It's burning fast, it's burning high,” said Butler County Sheriff Kelly Herzet.

The sheriff knew the shutdown was an inconvenience but said he had no choice.

"The visibility- you could not see on the turnpike or 77 highway. People driving into smoke. We didn't need an accident there,” said Sheriff Herzet.

Emergency workers even started calling people who lived near the fire’s path, telling them to get ready to evacuate.
"It's my understanding that no structures have been lost, no homes have been lost, no livestock has been lost,” added Sheriff Herzet.

Late in the evening, with the help of Blackhawk helicopters, the conditions finally calmed down enough for the highway and turnpike to open back up.