Western Kansas at high risk for fires

Garden City, KS–  Western Kansas was at a critical high risk for fire danger on Monday.

Prolonged dry weather and high winds are a combination proving to be dangerous this time of year.

“If the grass was up to my waist and the wind is blowing 20 miles an hour and the fire’s coming this way, I’m extremely scared,” said landowner and Research Scientist Randall Currie.  His property is covered in Preservation grass, that can grow several feet tall.

“The wind does play a very significant part in the fires this time of year,” said Garden City Fire Chief Allen Shelton.

Because many people in rural Kansas don’t have trash pickup they burn it, and that can be a problem.

With tumble weeds piling up in trees and windbreaks and the crops growing drier as winter goes on it’s not that hard for a spark to find some good fuel.

Officials stress that simple things can cut down the fire risk, like not tossing cigarette butts or lighting a fire when the wind is blowing over 15 miles an hour.

No matter what, always call in a controlled burn and check with the local fire department about any burn bans in the area.

One thing people Chief Shelton said people don’t always realize that the heat from the bottom of a vehicle can ignite dry crops so don’t drive through fields, stay on the roads.

As for landowners, mowing dry crops instead of harvesting them for feed is a last resort for fire prevention.

“I make less money, but I don’t burn my house down,” said Currie, who has had to mow his field in the past.

Fire officials are keeping an eye on the skies for signs of fire, but counting down the days to Spring.

“It’s much harder to burn green fuel than dry fuel, but life is coming [back],” said Currie, “Spring is on the way.”

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