A carelessly discarded cigarette from a passing vehicle is being blamed for a large grass fire that occurred Monday afternoon north of Interstate 80, in Adair County. Adair Fire Chief Jordan Smith told KJAN News the fire started about two-miles east of the Adair Exit (77.5-mile marker) and was first paged out just before 3-pm, Monday. Smith said with the way the wind was blowing, the fire burned east-northeast along and north of the Interstate for about 2-miles. Firefighters managed to get the flames knocked down before they reached the westbound rest area, but not before the fire jumped 2 gravels roads as it raged eastward.
After the flames jumped one gravel road, and destroyed large, round hay bales. He said 50-to 60 bales were lost. Smith said hay bale fires are almost impossible to extinguish unless you spread them out and hose them down, which is dangerous and time consuming. A neighboring farmer who has construction equipment used his excavator and dug a big hole to dump the bales in and cover them up, allow the fire to be snuffed out.
Three firefighters from Adair suffered minor injuries while fighting the blaze. Smith says two had smoke inhalation, with another had minor burns to his face. The thick curtain of smoke created problems for motorists along Interstate 80. Visibility along the interstate was down to zero at time. Several law enforcement agencies were requested for traffic control. The eye-catching fire also attracted “rubber-neckers,” who Smith says can be a real hindrance to fire fighting efforts, and endanger lives.
Smith says firefighters from Adair, Casey, Stuart, Menlo, Anita, Wiota, Greenfield, Bridgewater, and Fontanelle were on the scene for about 5-hours, finally wrapping things up at around 8-pm, Monday.