Several fires burn along I40 in Shawnee

Five fires, all within about a mile of each other, spread area fire departments to their limits near Shawnee.

Crews were called to I40 near Kickapoo St. in Shawnee Friday afternoon. The fire started in the grass between the interstate and a boat company and burned through the grass and into several boats.

This fire was one of several burning along I-40 in Shawnee and crews are working quickly to extinguish them before more damage is caused.

The biggest, this one, bolted north off I-40 into this boat yard. 20 boats were destroyed, but no one was injured.

Pottawatomie County sheriff Mike Booth says the fiberglass burning on the boats posed a problem for folks nearby.

"This smoke is also a big thing to worry about," Booth said. "Some of that smoke, breathing that, that's not going to be good for you, so we're just trying to let people know that keep people out of the area, and stay away from it as much as possible."

No one had to be evacuated, but crews were ready just in case. Next door to the boat yard, a home, that was saved by firefighters. With crews spread over five fires, crews were faced with tough decisions on what to save.

"We had to prioritize that," Drew Tischer, with Shawnee fire, said. "Initially, crews identified they weren't going to be able to save all the boats, and they had to move to stopping it, we had to prioritize those things."

And how did so many fires start so close together? Fire crews say they don't suspect the fires were intentional, and think something behind a vehicle along I-40 sparked the fire.

"That would be our first instinct, that it was probably something that was being dragged behind a vehicle, sparking and conditions are so dry the air is so dry, and the grass being dormant that it easy started the fire."

For folks who live nearby, they say the fire rattled their nerves, but are thankful no homes burned.

"Pretty crazy," said Eric Likens. "Pretty interesting. Think this guy got pretty lucky."

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