Low visibility caused by a rapid-moving grass fire Sunday afternoon led to two separate non-injury motor vehicle accidents on Interstate 70.
The fire also caused I-70 to be closed for approximately 90 minutes between mile markers 266 and 275 due to poor visibility.
The Dickinson County Sheriff’s Department responded to a call at approximately 12:20 p.m. for an out-of-control grassfire in the area of I-70 mile marker 272 (the Fair Road exit).
The fire began as a controlled burn in the 500 block of Old Highway 40 that went out of control, according to Dickinson County Undersheriff Brian Hornaday. The Solomon Fire Department was first on the scene and quickly requested mutual aid.
Driven by high winds blowing north, the fire moved rapidly across a field, causing large amounts of smoke to cross I-70, resulting in zero visibility, Hornaday said.
The smoke caused two multi-car accidents. Each accident involved three vehicles, but no one was injured, he said.
“The fire caused the accidents,” explained Dickinson County Emergency Management Director Chancy Smith. “The smoke was so thick across the interstate. Some people were stopping and others weren’t.”
Specific information regarding the accidents was not available by press time.
Because of the danger caused by the smoky conditions, the Kansas Highway Patrol, Abilene Police Department and Chapman Police Department all responded and assisted the sheriff’s department in closing I-70 between mile markers 266 and 275.
East and westbound traffic was temporarily diverted to allow a safe area for firefighters to work and to prevent further accidents.
The closure occurred at approximately 1:08 p.m., according to Dickinson County 911 scanner traffic.
The interstate reopened to normal traffic at approximately 3 p.m., according to Undersheriff Hornaday.
Multiple fire departments from across the region responded to fight the fire, including Dickinson County District 1, Grant Township and the Abilene Fire Department.
Also responding were Saline County Districts 1 and 5, the Fort Riley Fire Department, Longford Rural and the Ottawa County Fire Department.