Dry grass is fuel for fires
An outbreak of six grass fires fueled by wind and lack of rain has Marion County firefighters urging residents to be mindful of the danger.
“The next four to six months could be crazy for grass fires,” said Marion fire chief Preston Williams.
The warm, wet summer helped grasslands thrive and keep growing well into October, said Williams and Peabody fire chief Mark Penner.
That growth was followed by a weeks of dry, windy conditions that have turned the tall grass into perfect kindling and crews have been busy battling blazes, they said.
“This last week has just been crazy,” Penner said.
According to reports from emergency scanners this past week, several fires were reported:
- 11:22 a.m. Nov. 12 — Durham firefighters were called to a grass fire at K-15 and 250th.
- 4:37 p.m. Thursday — Burns, Florence and Peabody firefighters were called to a grass fire in the 100 block of Locust St. in Peabody.
- 11:36 a.m. Friday — Hillsboro firefighters were called to a blaze near 140th and Holly.
- 4:15 p.m. Saturday — Peabody and Hillsboro firefighters assisted with a grass fire in Harvey County.
- 12:15 p.m. Sunday — Peabody firefighters were called to a grass fire near Walton that had rekindled. Nearly 150 acres are thought to have burned, Williams said.
- 4:44 p.m. Monday — a grass fire was reported near Falcon and 110th St. and Goessel firefighters assisted.
“The grass is a tinderbox right now,” Penner said. “It is pretty dicey. Right now it doesn’t take much to start something, and then you have got the wind fueling it.”
Both Williams and Penner say the lack of measurable rain has contributed to the fire danger.
Thunderstorms and showers are in the works today with an average 1/10” expected across the county, said Eric Schminke, forecaster with the National Weather Service in Wichita.
“It won’t be heavy by any means, but it should dampen up the ground considerably,” he said.
Penner said that still won’t be enough to dampen the fire threat.
“With the winds blowing the way they have been, within a day everything will dry back out, he said.”
The only real solution is winter, he said.
“The grass is straight up out there. It needs to be laid over flat, by a good, heavy snow,” he said. “The ground may be moist, but the taller grass is going to dry out and that stuff is going to burn. It will run right through with any wind pushing it.”
In the meantime, Williams said, be careful when burning trash or using a fire pit – have a cover or a garden hose handy.
“Anything brown is going to take right off,” he said.
Last modified Nov. 20, 2019