Thursday’s grass fire south of Lawrence left at least one Douglas County resident with significant property damage. It’s the second time in just more than a month that an out-of-control brush fire in the same vicinity has burned up acres of his land.
Phil Bradley, who lives across the road from Wells Overlook Park on North 1000 Road, said he estimates Thursday’s fire burned more than 100 acres of his family’s property.
When he was alerted to the fire Thursday afternoon, Bradley said he looked outside and saw it coming from the north, “and it kept spreading and spreading and spreading.”
Bradley said fire crews drenched the side of his house facing the fire and were able to stop flames before they reached his house, though the fire did get as far as his yard. Bradley said he was able to corral his cattle and that none were hurt or escaped through fencing damaged in the fire.
Bradley said he saw fire crews in the area putting out hotspots until at least 9 p.m.
Bradley said he was grateful for the work of the firefighters who battled the blaze, who “do almost heroic acts” on a volunteer basis.
At the same time, Bradley said, he and his relatives want answers about this fire — which began as a controlled burn — that might prevent a similar situation in the future.
“We’re very concerned that this happened,” he said. “We believe this is an entirely preventable incident.”
Wakarusa Township Fire Department responded to the fire, and multiple other departments were called in to assist.
The fire started as a controlled burn in the 1300 block of North 1100 Road and got out of control, according to emergency dispatchers. Dispatchers said it was reported about 3:40 p.m. Douglas County Emergency Management officials said they were called to assist shortly after that time but declined to provide more details about the fire when reached on Thursday.
It’s not clear who was conducting the controlled burn, or how long it was going on before it became out of control.
Wakarusa Township Fire Department Chief Mike Baxter didn’t return calls from the Journal-World Thursday or Friday.
The incident prompted officials to fully or partially close North 1000 and 1100 roads between U.S. Highway 59 and East 1400 Road, according to the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office. Affected roads were reopened around 6 p.m.
On Jan. 25, a fatal car crash in the 1300 block of North 1000 Road sparked a large grass fire, fueled by gusting winds.
That fire burned approximately 200 acres and took firefighters about two hours to control, Baxter told the Journal-World at that time. He said that blaze caused several homes to be evacuated, but none were damaged.
Bradley said the Jan. 25 fire burned about 60 acres of his property.