Southwest and central Kansas face an elevated wildfire threat for the 2019 season, according to projections by the National Weather Service and Kansas Mesonet. Increased fuel loads exist in these areas as the result of late summer rains.
Chip Redmond, mesonet manager and assistant scientist in the Weather Data Library at Kansas State University, said despite above-normal moisture across most of the state this winter, a slightly earlier start to the spring fire season is expected to be accompanied by a sooner-than-normal spring green-up that could add fuel if freeze damage occurs. The combination of these factors has heightened concerns for fire weather events.
While there was a decrease in acres burned and the total number of Kansas wildfires in 2018, fires the two previous years burned more than 800,000 acres at a cost of $80 million. Aggressive initial attack, improved coordination and access to mutual aid kept the impact of wildfires to a minimum in Kansas during 2018.
Kansas Forest Service (KFS) Assistant Fire Management Officer Eric Ward said training is helping local authorities build capacity and coordination to fight wildfires. Through March 2018, KFS had conducted more training with fire departments than during any other year.