A number of wildfires recently in southwest Kansas brought more sobering proof of the threat of tinder-dry conditions and strong winds.
Gov. Jeff Colyer on Sunday issued a declaration of disaster emergency in response to a Stevens County blaze, and noted additional counties could be added to the declaration as response operations continued.
We’re left to expect still more wildfires throughout the region.
An ongoing lack of rain and snow has hurt in a part of the country all too familiar with the toll of such weather. Wildfire damage often is devastating for farmers and ranchers in particular. Grass fires can kill livestock and destroy hay and grass needed for feed, as well as fencing, outbuildings and other structures.
People also should consider the plight of firefighters in such conditions. They often work long hours to rein in the potentially deadly fires that can spread at breakneck speed.
The blazes in southwest Kansas were a needed reminder to use caution at a time so much of the land is bone dry.
Much of the state is under a Red Flag Warning from the National Weather Service due to strong winds and dry conditions. As fires may spread rapidly out of control, Kansas Division of Emergency Management officials encourage citizens to practice fire safety and to stay diligent in preventing wildfires.
Practically all grass fires are caused by human activity.
Use common sense. Don’t throw burning cigarettes from moving vehicles. Avoid driving vehicles across dry grass, or using work equipment in dry fields. Welding or brush hogging, for example, can trigger a blaze.
Be careful at home, as well. Outdoor grills and lawnmowers can lead to trouble.
Everyone in western Kansas should know it takes only one spark to ignite a serious grass fire that can destroy property and endanger lives.
Even when the seemingly relentless wind dies down — and it will — the threat will persist. The weather forecast for southwest Kansas shows little relief ahead in terms of badly needed moisture.
As always with persistent drought, everyone should be on alert. One careless act could cause the kind of dire situation that puts many emergency responders and others in harm’s way.
— GateHouse Kansas