Kansas Forest Service Stresses Drier Period Increases Chances of Wildfires
MANHATTAN, Kan. – A Kansas Forest Service official is urging caution for homeowners and landowners as the state nears a point in the year that is typically high-risk for wildfires.
Jason Hartman, the assistant fire management officer with KFS, said that the state’s abundant rains last fall were good for the growth of grasses and other vegetation. But as the state moves into a drier part of the year, those same plants become potential fuel for fires.
“We’ve had that scenario play out for several years now where pretty good growing season rains lead to a lot of potential fuel during the dormant season,” Hartman said. “We had that once again this year coming into what is our traditional fire season time.”
Recent snow and rain in parts of Kansas is helping to keep the risk low currently, but Hartman notes that it can take as little as two or three days for wetter areas to dry, and “once it dries, it can burn just like anything else.”
In urban and rural areas, homeowners should look right outside their front door for ways to protect their property from potential fires. “Check your home right where the foundation walls meet the landscape,” Hartman said. “Make sure that is a well-maintained area, and that there is not a lot of loose material such as leaves, litter, loose grasses and loose gardening debris that can be a receptor for a wind blown ember.”
“When you’re getting out for a good basic spring cleaning, think of all the things that can receive an ember, even up above the ground level, such as gutters and valleys in the roof. Clean the leaves from those areas.”
Hartman said homeowners also should move wood piles from a back door or patio to a safer spot at least 30 feet away from the home. If possible, keep grassed areas a minimum 5 feet away from the foundation of the home.
“In terms of keeping distance of landscapes from the home, always go for as much as you’re comfortable doing while still maintaining the aesthetic look of your home. That’s what is best for fire safety,” Hartman said.
He also urged caution for those who weld, or use grinders or torches. If possible, avoid that work on days when there are high winds or low humidity.
For more fire safety tips, visit the Kansas Forest Service online at www.KansasForests.org.