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Burn ban likely to continue

Many counties still have bans in place

POSTED July 28, 2012 10:49 p.m.
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Sure, it rained Wednesday night. Sure, many yards, sidewalks and backyard decks were damp Thursday morning.
But, “it’s still so dry,” said Amy Miller, Barton County emergency risk manager. “We just need some green growth.”
So, when she goes before the Barton County Commission Monday morning, she will again request the county-wide burn ban be extended for another week. It may sound like a broken record, but it will take more than one or two small showers quench bone-dry central Kansas.
“We’re just going week to week,” Miller said. Barton County has had a ban in place for eight of the last nine weeks, starting May 29 and only skipping the week of June 18.
With all 105 Kansas counties now under emergency drought status and two-thirds of the U.S. in a drought , Barton County is not alone. According to the Kansas Adjutant General’s Department, there are 55 counties with bans, including Edwards, Ellsworth, Ness, Pawnee, Rush and Russell.
In addition, Stafford County has instituted a “strong restrictions” burn ban, which means burning is only allowed if a site visit has been conducted by the fire department and the site is deemed safe for burning beyond a reasonable doubt.
The cities of Gardner, Howard, Leawood, Lenexa, Merriam, Olathe, Overland Park, Shawnee and Spring Hill have city bans on the books.
Miller believes the prohibition is working. “I think it helps with awareness.”
At a time when a spark caused by a lawn mower hitting a rock can start a fire, it serves as a reminder for residents to be careful, she said.
Fire chiefs across the county agree, Miller said. “They think it has helped (reduce the number of fires) tremendously.”
Sharon Watson, Kansas Adjutant General’s Department public affairs director, said the number of counties reporting bans has been on the rise since the Fourth of July because of concerns over fireworks. “But, there hasn’t been a decrease since then.”
Large swaths of the state have been charred by wildfires. Counties worried about such blazes and how they tax the local firefighters are seizing on this as a chance to try to limit the threat.
Bans are implemented at the local level, Watson said. But, county officials do contact her office to see what others are doing.
“This is the largest number of counties (with bans) that we’ve seen in a long time,” Watson said. But, “there have been a pretty significant number of weeks that we’ve been without rain.”
In fact, as drought conditions persist and intensify for Kansas, Gov. Sam Brownback Wednesday updated the Drought Declaration for Kansas to include all 105 counties in an emergency status.
This triggers the Kansas Water Office and Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism to use state fishing lake storage. “Our focus at this time is to ensure communities, livestock producers and farmers have the available resources they need,” said Tracy Streeter, director of the KWO and chair of the Governor’s Drought Response Team.
“While reservoirs and cities have been able to meet their communities’ needs so far, it is imperative citizens conserve water in every way they can,” Brownback said. “Drought outlook indicates conditions are expected to continue or intensify for the state and we need increased cooperation going forward.”
Wilson Lake is one of 28 bodies of water included in this designation.
For more detailed information about current conditions, see the Kansas Climate Summary and Drought Report on the Kansas Water Office website at

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