Grass fires, wildfires, danger lurks in rural areas this month, hence a proclamation from Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly to remind all to be aware.
It wasn’t exactly a wildfire, but a controlled burn that unofficially got out of control near Preston on Monday exemplified the need for Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly’s recent proclamation designating Feb. 4-8, 2019 as Wildfire Awareness week in Kansas.
Three Preston fire units responded to the grass fire that was reported shortly after noon on Feb. 4 at NE 90th Street and NE 120th Avenue in the northeastern part of Pratt County. The fire was quickly knocked down and fire fighters made several passes along the edges to make sure nothing would flare up again.
As part of her Wildlife Awareness Week in Kansas proclamation Monday, Kelly shared state safety agency tips on wildfire risk mitigation and management.
The Office of the State Fire Marshal and Kansas Interagency Wildfire Council suggested the following to mitigate the risk of wildfire and reduce potential impacts if a wildfire does occur:
- check the forecast before conducting a prescribed burn to ensure proper conditions
- avoid activities that could spark fires, like welding, grinding and cutting, near buildings and potential fuel sources like dry vegetation.
To reduce the risk of loss from wildfire to home and property keep long grasses mowed, if possible.
Report unattended fires to 911 immediately. Wildfires spread quickly and a quick response can reduce the impact of a potentially devastating fire.
Check burn piles after the burn is completed. Embers in debris piles can reignite even after several days, and spark a new fire.
Maintain a safe distance from wildfire and other emergency scenes. Emergency personnel need space to perform fire suppression activities and fire directions can change quickly, endangering bystanders
“Kansas, like any other state, is susceptible to wildfires,” said Sen. Tom Hawk who joined Kelly’s proclamation signing. “One of the critical pieces of combating wildfires is that we have people at the local level who are trained and have the right equipment to fight those fires. Because every minute that passes means that a wildfire can become a real disaster.”
The 2019 wildfire season is projected to have an earlier start with a slight increase in predicted fire weather events in the southwest and central areas of the state. This is the same area that experienced significant fires in the last three years, including the Starbuck and Anderson Creek fires, burning over 800,000 acres at a cost of more than $80 million.
According to fire officials, nearly 95 percent of all wildfires result from the activity of people, and subsequently, a significant number could be prevented by taking proper actions toward fire safety.
Controlled burns are a necessary part of farm and ranch management for many landowners in the state, and in Pratt County. Calling in to county dispatch when planning to make a controlled burn is an important safety step to take, as is double-checking wind speed and direction before starting any fire.