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  • Last modified 188 days ago (Jan. 9, 2019)

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A wild summer?

Fire departments take predicting of fire danger in stride

Staff writer

Although some forecasts call for increased wildfires this summer, Marion County fire departments won’t change how they prepare.

Neighboring Chase and Butler Counties are among the Kansas counties most prone to wildfires.

If it has an effect, will be that more emphasis is placed on tactics and preparation, said.

“We might ramp up some of our wildland training, discuss some different things with tactics and strategy,” Lincolnville fire chief Les Kaiser said. “We also re-evaluate our trucks in case we need to make any changes in them.”

But a big challenge, Peabody fire chief Mark Penner said, is maintaining enough volunteers.

“It’s get harder and harder,” he said. “It’s not just us with small fire departments. People just don’t volunteer like they used to. It’s a bit tougher to get people to come and join, but for the most part we have a steady group of guys.”

Because of the wet winter so far, Kaiser expects crops and plants to start growing early in the spring.

“With the moisture we have right now, we’re probably looking at an earlier green-up,” Kaiser said. “With an earlier green-up, sometimes you have an earlier die-off once it starts getting hot, and then we’ll have more fuel.”

At the same time, having a base that starts growing early and stays healthy can lessen the danger of the dry season, Penner said.

“It does help quite a bit to get that green underneath,” he said. “It can slow things down a bit

The county has many ranchers who are knowledgeable about safely burning brush, but not everyone is accountable, Kaiser said.

“It’s the five percent who cause 90 percent of the problems,” he said. “We have people driving up and down the highway flicking cigarette butts, people who aren’t that familiar with controlled burn, or just want to go out and get it done.

“For a majority of people in the county, we had a really good year last year. Everybody was cautious. It was so dry, but everybody took the proper precautions.”

Last modified Jan. 9, 2019

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