Topeka – Governor Laura Kelly signed a proclamation marking the week of Feb. 14-18, 2022, as Wildfire Awareness Week in Kansas. As many Kansans are still overcoming the devastating wildfires that took place in December, this provides an opportunity to share information on preventing future wildfires.
Last year, Kansas fire departments responded to close to 5,000, vegetation-related fires that caused two fatalities, injured 20 people, burned over 185,000 acres and damaged more than 40 buildings. Over 900 of these fires required counties to seek mutual-aid assistance to bring them under control. The fires also caused over $4 million in damages to property owners.
The Kansas Division of Emergency Management, the Office of the State Fire Marshal and the Kansas Forest Service, as well as the Kansas Firefighters Association and the Kansas State Association of Fire Chiefs, urge everyone to use extreme caution whenever doing any burning.
“Check with your local fire department or emergency manager before doing any outdoor burning,” said Maj. Gen. David Weishaar, the adjutant general and director of the Kansas Division of Emergency Management. “The state has established guidelines to help control outside burning and following them can help us all prevent many wildland fires.”
Wildfires burn thousands of acres in multiple counties and stretch the manpower and resources of many local volunteer fire departments. In Kansas, 84 percent of firefighters belong to volunteer fire departments.
“Wildfires cause devastation both personally and economically,” Doug Jorgensen, State Fire Marshal, said. “And most wildfires are caused by human activities. So, by being aware of our surroundings and weather conditions, as well as following simple fire safety measures, we have the ability to prevent the majority of wildfires.”
Kansans should practice safe, responsible behavior when conducting any outdoor burning. They should refrain from dangerous and unlawful use of fireworks. Also, it is important to report all suspicious fires and smoke.
“Kansans have experienced so much loss due to wildfires in the past months. This week is a good opportunity for Kansans to evaluate their property and communities to better prepare in the event of a wildfire.” Kansas State Forester, Jason Hartman, said.