It doesn’t take a climatologist to know that conditions in this region are dry — though there are plenty of climate experts who can’t wait to discuss the issue.
Still, as more local experts can attest, it’s not unusual — nor is it a recent development — for the Great Plains to have plenty of available fuel and dry enough conditions to make range fires dangerous.
So far this spring, that is the situation locally.
That could all change, of course, if we get into a wet weather pattern, but that doesn’t seem to be in immediate future.
Due to the fairly constant southern winds in this part of the nation, any dampness received can be lost quickly.
Kansas has already seen conditions go from bad to worse this spring.
According to the Associated Press: “Stevens County officials say a train sparked a blaze along railroad lines, which are surrounded by pastures and grasslands. Fueled by tumbleweeds and winds that reached 60 mph, the blaze grew and eventually forced the evacuation of about 1,200 people in the Haskell County town of Satanta.”
That fire “damaged a few homes and burned about 1,000 acres, but no major injuries were reported.”
For rural residents, there are some immediate steps that can be taken to make conditions safer, in case there is range fire.
According to Firewise Communities, some steps would include:
• Prune trees so the lowest limbs are six to 10 feet from the ground and remove dead or over hanging branches.
• Within five feet of the home, use nonflammable landscaping materials, such as rock, pavers, annuals, and high-moisture-content perennials.
• Select low-growing plants with high moisture content that are free of resins, oils, or waxes that burn easily.
• Remove leaves and pine needles from gutters and around your home and attachments, such as decks and fences.
Longer term tips that are suggested by Firewise Communities include:
• Use non-combustible construction materials, such as stucco, brick, and fiber cement siding.
• Consider using Class-A asphalt roof shingles, clay tile, or slate roofing materials.
The national Firewise Communities program is an interagency program designed to encourage local solutions for wildfire safety.