This is the beginning of wildfire season. With everything being so dry and with high winds predicted for today, people need to be aware, take precautions against starting fires and know what to do in case of an emergency, Barton County Emergency/Risk Management Department Director Amy Miller said.
“It is very important to understand and to take precautions this time of year against wildfires,” Miller said. “With the lack of moisture we have had, the conditions for wildfires are here.”
According to the Kansas Fire Marshal’s Office, in 2015, Kansas fire departments responded to nearly 6,000 vegetation-related fires that resulted in 21 reported injuries and $4.9 million in property loss and damages.
Nearly 95 percent of all wildfires result from the activity of people and, subsequently, a significant number could have been prevented through taking proper actions toward fire safety.
“This time of year, people should remove deadwood, shrubs and other material that could burn away from their home,” Miller said. “Do not use outside grills, no open fire pits and make sure to have water hoses that can reach around the entire home. And for people that are driving down the highways, do not throw lit cigarette butts out the window; a lot of fires are started this way.”
According to the American Red Cross, early spring and extremely dry and windy conditions across Kansas are the perfect recipe for wildfires.
“The Red Cross is partnering with government and community leaders to provide necessary resources in case of an outbreak,” Regional Disaster Officer for the American Red Cross Brandon Holstrom said. “We urge the public to be prepared and extremely cautious during this time of year.”
Things you can do to prepare for wildfires should they strike in your area:
• Listen to local radio and television stations for updated emergency information
• Limit exposure to smoke and dust. Keep indoor air clean by closing windows and doors to prevent outside smoke from getting in.
• Keep the areas surrounding your home clear of brush, debris and other materials that may catch fire.
• Have an emergency kit of items you may need in case you should be affected by fires.
• Make sure you have critical documents, medications, food & water for your entire family.
• Visit redcross.org for information on how to make an emergency kit.
• If ordered to evacuate, leave immediately and head for shelter – family or friends, a hotel, a Red Cross shelter, or other location you select.
• Be ready to leave at a moment’s notice.
• Always back your car into the garage or park it in an open space facing the direction of escape.
• Confine pets to one room so that you can find them if you need to evacuate quickly.
• Arrange for temporary housing at a friend or relative’s home outside the threatened area.
• Talk with members of your household about wildfires — how to prevent them and what to do if one occurs.
• Post emergency phone numbers by every phone in your home or on your cellphone.
• Make sure driveway entrances and your house number or address are clearly marked.
• Identify and maintain an adequate water source outside your home, such as a small pond, cistern, well or swimming pool.
• Set aside household items that can be used as fire tools: a rake, ax, hand saw or chain saw, bucket and shovel. You may need to fight small fires before emergency responders arrive.