Smoke From Large Brush Fire Closes I-70, Rocheport Bridge on Saturday
A major brush fire in Cooper County at Wooldridge forced the closure of I-70 between mile marker 106 and 117 due to nearly zero visibility Saturday.
According to the MSHP, the fire also closed the Missouri River Bridge at Rocheport.
The Patrol rerouted traffic until the smoke cleared.
Authorities said that dry vegetation, low humidity levels and windy conditions contributed to dangerous fire conditions in the area. A report issued on Friday said that all of Missouri was experiencing severe drought conditions. This is up from only 37 percent last week.
Emergency responders from Cooper County, Jamestown, Howard County, California, Boone County, Clifton and Otterville reportedly made their way to the fire scene to assist.
According to the Cooper County Fire Protection District, at 3:35 p.m. Saturday, the CCFPD was dispatched to a natural cover fire just south of Wooldridge. Because of the high winds and low humidity, the fire spread quickly into the village of Wooldridge, burning approximately 20 structures.
"The fire front continued north to Interstate 70 burning approximately 3,500 to 4,000 acres. The statewide mutual aid system was activated, and there are currently more than 30 agencies on the scene. No firefighter injuries have been reported this far and one civilian injury that is believed to be non-life threatening.
"Displaced residents are being sheltered at the Open Bible Praise Center on Hwy 87. I-70 was closed for approximately two hours while smoke was covering the roadway. I-70 has since been reopened. Crews will remain on the scene through the night to control hot spots and to be prepared for any change in wind direction," the CCFPD said on Saturday.
As of 9 p.m, the MSHP said that both eastbound and westbound lanes of Interstate 70 are back open. "If you’re traveling through the area, please be careful. Slow down and increase your following distance and be prepared for delays as a large volume of traffic will be coming through soon," the Patrol said.
Wooldrige is located about 20 miles southwest of Columbia.
The blaze reportedly was sparked in a field by a combine that was harvesting crops. One injury was reported during the ordeal.
Cooper County Fire District spokesman Jim Gann said on Sunday that between 4.6 and 5.4 square miles burned before the fire was brought under control by about 50 agencies.
In fact, there were fires in Cooper County, Columbia and Jeff City that were being battled over the weekend.