Dry conditions, drought play role in increased wildfire risk this year

ROSE HILL, Kan. (KSNW) – Fire danger could be upon us.  A new study shows much of the state could see an increase in wildfires this year.

The reason, abnormally dry conditions and severe drought.

Butler County Fire District #3 is one of nine fire districts that are responsible for covering the 1,400 square miles of the county.

That area is bigger than the entire state of Rhode Island.

While things were quiet around the fire station on Thursday, Chief James Woydziak knows that might not be the case much longer.

“There was enough moisture last year that the grass grew very well and now it is all dried out and it is just a fire waiting to happen,” said Chief Woydziak.

After two years of large-scale wildfires across the state, Chief Woydziak says they’ve made some upgrades.

“We’ve bought extra equipment, we’ve ordered more foam, class A foam for working on the fence posts and tree lines and stuff, they help put out the fires, we have a 55-gallon drum waiting to be delivered,” said Chief Woydziak.

Butler County Fire District #3 has a budget of about 614-thousand dollars.

That is a big part of the close to two-million dollars all the fire districts in the county are budgeted for 2018.

“We’ve had years where we’ve had fire districts run out of money and where our administration at the courthouse has had to step in,” said Jim Schmidt, Director of Butler County Emergency Management.

Schmidt says that’s why it is important for fire districts to work together.

“Almost no fire department can fight a significant grass fire on their own,” said Schmidt.

While Chief Woydziak says this fire season does pose some worries, he says they’ll be as ready as they can be to tackle the situation head on.

“We prepare every day, that it could happen today and then we hope it doesn’t,” said Chief Woydziak.

Chief Woydziak says if they get overwhelmed while fighting a fire, they can utilize help from neighboring departments.

This includes Augusta, Andover, Douglass, Derby and Sedgwick County.

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