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21-001 Governor issues state of disaster emergency for wildland fires

Jan. 16, 2021 | By slarson

At 11:05 a.m. today, Gov. Laura Kelly issued a State of Disaster Emergency due to a high risk of wildland fires in several Kansas counties. Northwest winds of 35 to 45 mph with gusts up to 60 mph may be expected with relative humidity as low as 18 percent. The declaration authorizes the use of state resources and personnel to assist with response and recovery operations in affected counties that meet certain criteria.

The National Weather Service has issued Red Flag warnings for counties in Southeast and Southwest Kansas. These counties include Allen, Barber, Chautauqua, Clark, Comanche, Edwards, Elk, Ellis, Finney, Ford, Grant, Gray, Greenwood, Hamilton, Haskell, Hodgeman, Kearny, Kiowa, Labette, Lane, Meade, Montgomery, Morton, Neosho, Ness, Pawnee, Pratt, Rush, Scott, Seward, Stafford, Stanton, Stevens, Trego, Wilson, and Woodson.

The warnings took effect at 9 a.m. this morning and are expected to be in effect through Friday evening.

A red flag warning means that critical fire weather conditions are either occurring now, or will shortly. A combination of strong winds, low relative humidity and warm temperatures can contribute to extreme fire behavior.

As we have seen in past years, wildland fires can cause widespread destruction and present a very real threat to life and property, Gov. Kelly said. Outdoor burning of any kind is strongly discouraged, whether getting rid of unwanted brush or enjoying a backyard barbecue. It only takes a single spark to touch off a wildland fire.

The Kansas National Guard will be prestaging firefighting assets for a rapid response in the event any counties need assistance with fire suppression operations.