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Wildfire Awareness Week reminds Kansans to remain vigilant as wildfire season approaches

TOPEKA, Kan. – Kansas Governor Laura Kelly has proclaimed Feb. 3-7, 2020, as Wildfire Awareness Week in partnership with the Kansas Interagency Wildfire Council and multiple state agencies.

 “Each year, wildfires endanger our firefighters, neighbors, and landscapes,” said Mick McGuire, the current chair of the Kansas Interagency Wildfire Council and lead meteorologist of the National Weather Service in Wichita. “Wildfire Awareness Week reminds us that we all have a part to play in preventing wildfires and protecting our communities.”

 Preliminary data from the Office of the State Fire Marshall indicates that reported vegetation fires were down to 2,502 fires burning 27,907 acres in 2019 as compared to 6,316 fires that burned 185,610 acres in 2018.

 While reported wildfires were lower in 2019 due to above normal precipitation amounts, cooperating agencies within KIWC caution Kansans to not become complacent when it comes to doing their part to reduce the risk of and prepare for wildfires. Nearly 95% of all wildfires result from the activity of people, indicating there is still room for improvement.

 “While some wildland fires can’t be prevented because they spring from lightning strikes or other natural causes, many are avoidable by carefully observing basic precautions when using fires outdoors,” Gov. Kelly said.

 McGuire said that every Kansan can implement the tips and best practices highlighted during Wildfire Awareness Week to prevent dangerous wildfires.

 “I urge everyone to take simple, precautionary steps like pruning trees and shrubs around homes and removing old debris from yards. Kansas experiences it’s heaviest wildfire activity during the early spring months, but fires occur during all seasons of the year, including winter,” he said.

 The Kansas Interagency Wildfire Council and partner agencies suggest the following to mitigate the risk of wildfire and reduce potential impacts if a wildfire does occur:

 Create defensible space around homes by removing leaves and other plant debris and flammable material that could catch embers. Replace or repair loose or missing shingles. Provide adequate space between the home and trees or other landscaping.

  • Establish a community or neighborhood group to participate in or be a part of creating a wildfire mitigation and response plan.
  • Prevent wildfires from starting by avoiding activities that can spark fires near buildings and potential fuel sources.
  • Write and follow your burn plan for prescribed fire including checking the weather forecast, and continue to monitor the burn area to make sure it hasn’t reignited.
  • Consider volunteering with your local fire department. Quick responses by local fire departments prevent what could become a devastating wildfire.

Throughout the 2020 Wildfire Awareness Week, the Kansas Interagency Wildfire Council and partner agencies including the National Weather Service Office, Kansas Division of Emergency Management, Office of the State Fire Marshal, the Kansas Forest Service, and others will remind Kansans of the dangers posed by wildfires and easy to implement practices to prevent and mitigate the risk of wildfires.

 Follow the hashtag #WildfireKS on social media during Wildfire Awareness Week to engage in the conservation. Be sure to like and follow @WildfireKS on Twitter and @KSKIWC on Facebook to see the latest information on wildfires in Kansas year-round.

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