By JIM MISUNAS
Kansas fire officials in western and central Kansas will be on high alert Thursday for extreme fire conditions produced by 80-degree temperatures and humidities less than 20 percent.
The National Weather Service in Wichita has issued a red flag warning for Barton County and surrounding south central counties from 11 a.m. Thursday to 7 p.m. Russell, Rice, McPherson and Reno counties are included in the warning area.
Thursday’s forecast record high temperatures will be accompanied by strong and gusty winds. With extreme fire danger developing across the area Thursday, Outdoor burning should be avoided.
Unseasonably warm temperatures and south winds 20 to 30 mph with gusts approaching 40 to 45 mph will drive the grassland fire danger into the extreme category across much of western and central Kansas.
For most areas, very high grassland fire danger will continue through the overnight hours into Friday morning. Breezy northwest winds across central Kansas is expected to drive grassland fire danger into the very high category friday afternoon.
The National Weather Service in Dodge City issued a red flag warning Wednesday for more than 20 western Kansas counties for low relative humidity and gusty winds from noon to 6 p.m. Thursday.
Southwest 20 to 30 mph winds will gusts up to 40 mph. Relative humidities will range from 5 to 15 percent with temperatures forecast from 80 to 85 degrees.
Any fires that start will have extreme fire behavior and spread rapidly. Outdoor burning is not advised.
A red flag warning means that critical fire weather conditions are forecast because of a combination of strong winds, low relative humidity and warm temperatures.
More than dozen wildfires broke out across central and eastern Oklahoma Sunday, forcing a major interstate to close. One of the fires forced the Oklahoma Highway Patrol to close a 13-mile stretch of I-35 between Guthrie and Mulhall about 30 to 40 miles north of Oklahoma City Sunday. Grass fires crossed the interstate in Logan County, Okla.