Fire danger “critical” in Kansas

GARDEN CITY, Kan. — “High temperatures, low humidity, and wind will definitely make a fire start a lot quicker,” said Garden City Fire Marshal Dan Swimmer.

The drought has brought those conditions to parts of Kansas and the rest of the Midwest, but is the increase in fire danger here to stay?

“In my opinion, it’s just Mother Nature running its course,” said Fire Science Instructor and former firefighter Larry Pander.  “We might go in five year increments where there are going to be a lot of fires in the United States because of the weather.”

Climatologist Mary Knapp said the drought and wild fires are likely part of a cycle, but she said areas that had steady rainfall before the most recent drought are most at risk.  “They tend to be larger and more dramatic,” she said.  “There’s been a lot of vegetation that has grown and flourished and now you have all that dried [up].”

The  problems can continue long after the fire is put out.  If the residue on top of the soil burns away all the dirt is free to blow around in the air, meaning that fires can actually contribute to dust storms.  “And we’re seeing the fallout of that, literally, as the dust storms have been very prevalent this spring,” said Knapp.

There is a silver lining though, as the drought continues landowners and farmers are learning how to better deal with it and they’re now doing more to prevent fires from starting.

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