Threat subsides, Butler County wildfire contained

Strong winds and low humidity fueled fires that prompted evacuations, power outages and road closures.
Published: Mar. 31, 2023 at 1:20 PM CDT
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EL DORADO, Kan. (KWCH) - Saturday afternoon update: A wildfire that spread Friday afternoon near El Dorado damaged one home and five sheds, El Dorado’s public information office said.

The fire caused structural damage to the home, but it was not destroyed. The sheds were seriously damaged.

The El Dorado Fire Department responded to the wildfire just before 1 p.m. Friday afternoon. The fire started near SW Parallel Street and Morley Road and quickly spread northeast with the help of strong winds.

The fire caused evacuations and road closures in northwest El Dorado.

Friday night update: The large wildfire that approached El Dorado Friday is under control, but there’s still work to be done in the area. Strong winds and low humidity fueled fires that prompted evacuations, power outages and road closures, including a stretch of the Kansas Turnpike.

An El Dorado resident named Dylan is among those who spoke with 12 News about what they experienced Friday, fearing for the worst and having little time to prepare.

“My wife and daughter took off and headed up to my sister-in-law’s house. I got home and put some stuff in the car just to make sure everything was gonna be good and I started watering the yard being as everything is so dry,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s going to help but it makes me feel better.”

Butler County resident Ray Pile’s property is near the large wildfire that burned for several hours. He described what he witnessed Friday afternoon.

“I just all of a sudden saw smoke like crazy coming out of the west. I assumed it was a grass fire or something like that on the other side of the turnpike,” he said. “But it just got so dark up in the sky that you couldn’t even see the turnpike from here like we normally do.”

While firefighters managed to knock down most of the fire had have the situation under control, several fire trucks remain in the area late Friday night with crews checking for hotspots. Evergy crews were also out checking on burned power poles to make sure lines aren’t hot.

4:55 p.m. Update: Butler County Emergency Communications says an evacuation order near El Dorado has been lifted.

“There is still some fire in the area, but the all clear has been given. Residents can return home!” the agency said on Facebook.

With evacuation orders lifted, the Red Cross has closed its evacuation center at the Butler County Community (4-H) Building. The agency said it served about two dozen people while it was open. People who were impacted by the fire and need assistance can call 1-800-RED CROSS, 24 hours a day.

The Kansas Department of Transporation (KDOT) in south central Kansas said K-196 between K-254 and Ohio St. is also back open in Butler County.

At least one structure burned Friday afternoon in a Butler County wildfire.

4:35 p.m. Update: The Kansas Forest Service Wildfire Update in cooperation with the Kansas Division of Emergency Management and the Kansas State Fire Marshal Office is assisting with fires in Chautauqua and Butler counties. Tanker 95 was able to make multiple water drops in Butler County before being grounded. At this time, all aircraft are grounded due to the wind conditions.

Engine 461 is still engaged in Chautauqua County. KFS staff continue to assist with the wildfire in Butler County.

3:25 p.m - Firefighters are battling six fires right now in Butler County, according to dispatchers. They say quite a few structures have burned.

El Dorado crews say every time they get a large fire there knocked down, it rekindles.

The Kansas Turnpike Authority has reopened all northbound lanes of I-35 at mile marker 71.2 near El Dorado. Southbound traffic is being diverted at exit 76, N. El Dorado. KTA closed the turnpike earlier this afternoon due to heavy smoke blowing across the road an injury accident that left two people critically injured.

Traffic is at a standstill on the Kansas Turnpike near El Dorado due to an injury crash and a wildfire that has led to multiple evacuations.

In partnership with Butler County Emergency Management, the Red Cross has opened an evacuation center for people displaced by the grass fire burning in El Dorado. The location is Butler County Community (4-H) Building, 206 N Griffith, El Dorado, Kan.

Water and snacks are available there. The Red Cross said it will work with local officials throughout this incident to assess the community’s need for shelter and other support. Updates will be posted to our social media pages and emailed to you as warranted.

2:45 p.m. The City of El Dorado says firefighters continue to fight a large grass fire north of Central and west of Haverhill. Butler County dispatchers will be issuing Reverse 911 notifications as necessary to residents impacted by the fire. Butler County Emergency Communications posted about an hour ago that they were asking those who live west of Haverhill and north of Central to evacuate to safety. They also shared that the American Red Cross is setting up a shelter at the Community (4-H) Building on North Griffith

The Kansas Department of Transportation in south central Kansas now says K-196 is closed in Butler County from K-254 north to 10th St. due to the wildfire.

2:30 p.m. The Mulvane Fire Department says there are multiple fires in the area. Residents are advised to watch out for fire trucks and smoke across the highways.

2:25 p.m. Update: New evacuations of the El Dorado area include Topeka to 6th Streets and Refinery Road.

1:50 p.m. Update: The Kansas Turnpike Authority says all lanes of I-35 are closed in El Dorado at mile marker 71.5 due an injury crash in which two people have suffered critical injuries. Butler County dispatchers confirm a wildfire in the area caused the crash.

Evacuations are also underway in the area. Butler County Emergency Management says anyone who lives west of Haverhill Road and north of Central (K-254) needs to evacuate at this time.

Oil Hill Elementary School in El Dorado is among the evacuations. Students have been moved to safety at the Circle High School gymnasium, 905 Main Street, in Towanda.

Josh Potter captured this video from the parking lot of Oil Hill Elementary School where students were forced to evacuate due to a wildfire.

The American Red Cross is setting up a shelter at the 4H community building on north Griffith.

Storm Team 12 meteorologist Rodney Price says wind gusts have reached 62 mph at Eisenhower Airport. Additionally, power lines are down on MacArthur Road between Ridge and Hoover in west Wichita, and at 1701 S. Sabin.

About 5,500 Evergy customers are without power, mostly in Greenwood County and east, near southeast Kansas.

Stay tuned to 12 News this afternoon, and to this page for more updates.