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Residents allowed home after wildfire burns at least 2200 acres in Shawnee/Wabaunsee Co.

Published: Apr. 2, 2021 at 1:49 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - UPDATED 6:45PM: Authorities reopened Carlson Rd. from I-70 north to the town of Willard as firefighters got the upper hand on a wildfire that raced across the area Friday afternoon. They also said residents could now return home. Fire officials say the fire burned at least 2200 acres, but it did not appear any buildings had been damaged.

UPDATED 5:15 PM Town of Willard still under threat. Expanding evacuation and evacuating additional people according to Alan Stahl of Topeka Fire. Carlson Road is closed from I-70 to Willard. Currently evacuating more homes along Carlson Road to west in Wabaunsee County, according to Deputy Abigail Christian of Shawnee County Sheriff’s Office. They are currently asking those residents to leave. Additionally, they are asking that people stay out of the area so that roads are clear for emergency crews to move quickly.

Stahl of Topeka Fire praised the mutual aid agreements that are in place that are allowing multiple agencies to work together to battle this massive blaze. Correction, it is not Air Tanker 95 as originally reported to us. It is a tanker out of Seneca that is on contract to the Kansas Forestry Service. It looks like a yellow crop duster that is currently assisting to work the fire.

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UPDATED: 4:35 PM At least 800 acres have been scorched according to 13 News’ Rick Felsburg who is on the scene. The town of Willard has been evacuated; residents have been encouraged to go to the Rossville Library if they need a place to go. Initially, Maple Hill had been on the evacuation list, however firefighters were able to keep the flames back and residents in that community did not need to leave.

Firefighters continue to try and defend several homes in the area.

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UPDATED 3:15 PM “This one is a nasty fire,” a Topeka Fire spokesman said. He called it dangerous, saying it is moving rapidly.

Air Tanker 95 is en route to fight the fire. They do not yet know the cause. The update came from TPD spokesman around 3:15 this afternoon. Those being evacuated from Willard need to go toward Rossville. The call came in around 1:02 PM and units were on scene shortly thereafter. Capital City Oil will be responding to keep the fire units fueled.

Multiple fire departments are on scene including ones from Shawnee County, Wabaunsee County, Pottawatomie County, Jefferson County, and Jackson County.

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UPDATED 3:07 PM Conflicting reports... The National Weather Service Topeka has said that the evacuation order includes Willard and Maple Hill. However, Maple Hill Police have posted that they are NOT currently evacuating as “FD is battling & battling well.”

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UPDATED 2:26 PM The large wildfire continues to burn; Shawnee County Emergency Management is requesting a mandatory evacuation for areas between Vera Road to West Union Road from I-70 to the Kansas River.

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A call went out around 1:15 Friday afternoon for all available fire units to assist at I-70 and Carlson Rd., north of the interstate. A request for all available tankers was made. The fire was estimated to be between 100 to 200 acres at that time. Please avoid the area.

Shawnee County Emergency Management says to avoid immediately west of Rossville on Highway 24. The fire is just outside of Shawnee County and into Wabaunsee County, according to the Shawnee County Sheriff’s Office. There are multiple fire departments assisting. Shawnee County Emergency Management is running the operation. This is a developing story, please stand by for additional information. 13 News has a crew on the scene, and we will bring you more information as soon as possible. Check wibw.com, our social media, and our next local newscast, Eye on Northeast Kansas at 4 pm with Melissa Brunner.

A large grass fire burned almost 800 acres near Willard.
A large grass fire burned almost 800 acres near Willard.(Topeka Fire Department)

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