MANHATTAN, Kan. - Kansas will be under high to very high rangeland fire danger through the Fourth of July.
"We lost several thousand acres to wildfire over the past week in
northwest and north central Kansas. Careless use of fireworks now could easily translate into huge new fires anywhere in the state," said Jason Hartman, fire protection specialist with the Kansas Forest Service.
Hartman has just returned from helping fight the enormous forest fires in Colorado, which already have made that state's wildfire season the worst on record. Like Kansas, Colorado has been through a long stretch of unusually dry and unusually warm weather.
"Unfortunately, heat- and drought-stressed plants attract damaging and even killing pests. Plus, Americans haven't been doing as many
prescriptive burns as we used to, to limit the amount of fuel available
for wildfires. Combined with people's urge to keep moving further out into the urban-rural interface, that's come close to a perfect recipe for
disaster," he said.
As defined by the National Weather Service office in Topeka, the
difference between a high and a very high fire index rating come down to two things:
* Whether wildfires are likely, or, they're likely to start easily from
almost any cause.
* Whether windy conditions could make them difficult to control . or, the
addition of their expected spreading speed and flame intensity will make them very difficult to control.
"The only reasons Kansas isn't under a Red Flag Warning right now are that our wind speed probably won't exceed 20-25 mph, and our relative humidity should be above 20-25 percent," Hartman said. "Our maximum afternoon temperatures already qualify, as does the dryness of our plant life.
"That's enough to make me wish everyone would leave this year's fireworks to the professionals - perhaps watching a celebration televised from somewhere that isn't so hot and dry."