It’s better to be safe than sorry, state and local fire officials said this week.
Because of persistent drought conditions across Kansas, a state-wide burn advisory has been issued by the state fire marshal. Though the advisory comes amid this week’s rainfall, it also follows an extended drought season in 2012, when Franklin County, among other Kansas counties, saw an outbreak of fires because of the drought.
To combat fire threats, Franklin County regulates open burning by requiring individuals to obtain a permit, Alan Radcliffe, Franklin County emergency management director, said. Burn advisories and bans are issued only when absolutely necessary, he said.
“There are many things I look at before putting a ban or advisory in place,” Radcliffe said. “I look at things such as a red flag warning — something issued by the National Weather Service — that looks at conditions such as how strong the wind will be that day, if there’s a possibility of a cold front, the humidity levels and a number of other things.”
Before putting a burn ban or advisory in place, more is taken into consideration than just the local weather forecast, Radcliffe said.
“We also look at how much dry vegetation we have, and this year, we don’t have as much vegetation because of the drought from last year. But how dry is it [vegetation]? And what’s our humidity levels?” he said.
Another factor taken into consideration is the amount of green grass in a space where a burn is planned, Radcliffe said. A yard space, for example, can be used as a defensible space. If a fire gets out of control, firefighters can set up in the yard space and stop the fire from getting to a house.
“Most of the burning will be complete in the county within the next week or so,” Radcliffe said. “But pastures are already short from grazing last year, so the amount of burning should not be substantial,”
If burning is necessary, the state fire marshal and Kansas Interagency Wildfire Council offer some best practice tips to help ensure a burn doesn’t become a wildfire. Such tips include having knowledge of all state and local fire restrictions, notifying neighbors, postpone a burn if unsure of fuel and weather conditions, having resources available if fire escapes, considering smoke management to avoid unsafe road conditions, and not burning to the ends of fields, as well as setting boundaries.
Franklin County’s burn permit states: “no person shall cause or permit the on-site open burning of waste material, material from salvage operations, structures, vegetation, and/or other combustible materials within unincorporated areas of Franklin County without first obtaining a burn permit from the Fire Marshal or his or her designee relating to the site where the proposed burn is located.”
Anyone who fails to obtain a permit can be charged with a class B non-person misdemeanor, Radcliffe said. It can result in a fine up to $500 and possible jail time.