MEADE COUNTY, Kan. (KSNW) — An observant driver helped investigators quickly learn what caused the most recent grassfires in Meade County. Multiple fires were reported along Kansas Highway 23 in southwest Kansas on Thursday.
A witness reported seeing a vehicle stopped on the shoulder of the highway in the northbound lane. In their rearview mirror, the witness saw the vehicle merge onto the highway slowly. The witness noticed that shortly after the vehicle got back on the road, smoke was coming from the area where the vehicle had been parked.
The witness turned around to investigate and saw a fire rapidly growing. The witness reported it and began following the vehicle.
The Meade County Sheriff’s Office said law enforcement caught up with the suspicious vehicle and pulled it over. Officers arrested the driver for a traffic offense unrelated to the fire.
After investigating, the sheriff’s office said it was determined the suspicious vehicle was experiencing mechanical failures, causing the engine to stop running. The driver would coast onto the shoulder, wait a few minutes and then restart the vehicle.
The driver was cooperative and allowed investigators to check the vehicle. The sheriff said the investigators discovered the vehicle’s mechanical problems resulted in the engine backfiring through the exhaust.
The investigators saw flames coming from the exhaust pipe. The sheriff said there is no evidence to indicate the fires were intentionally set.
As of Friday afternoon, the Kansas Forest Service said the fires in Meade County are in patrol and monitor status. All KFS and state resources have been released.