County grass fires have taken life, damaged property this spring

By Pilar Martin
Harvey County Independent – March 26, 2015
Submitted by Newz Group Clipping Service – April 17, 2015

Click on photo to view full-size image.

Click on photo to view full-size image.

Grass fire danger is a real threat this time of year and has already caused a fatality in the county and damage to property.

Grasses, weeds, and stubble from fields can go up in flames in an instant. A Halstead area man was killed when a brush fire got out of control this month. Also in March, a shed with a classic car inside burned when a field fire re-ignited south of Hesston.

Sunday, Halstead firefighters responded to a two-acre field fire that got close to train tracks.

Many people think if there is rain or moisture, fire danger is not a problem, but what’s above the ground burns. Dead grass from winter can burn even when the ground is muddy.

Lon Buller with Harvey County Emergency Management said, “The lack of moisture and dry conditions from winter months, combined with recent low humidity, helps fuel fires.”

Harvey County has an Open Burning Resolution, which outlines restrictions on burning pasturel and open fields. Open burning is defined as the burning of large brush piles, or trash piles or other large debris piles or burning of vegetation such as grass, wood, crop residue, and other dry plant growth for the purpose of crop, range, pasture, wildlife or watershed management.

The open burning resolution does not affect fire pits, warming fires, campfires or fires of recreational purpose. But these fires must be managed and attended by a responsible person.

Buller also said an overlooked danger are burning brush piles. “Those brush piles can stay hot for days or weeks. Then the wind comes up and can carry hot embers into dry grass.”

All scheduled burning must be called into 911, to track burns and keep local fire departments on stand-by in case the burning gets out of control. And due to humidity, wind speed, and the state of vegetation, you can be told no burning is allowed.

Departments use the Grassland Fire Danger Index to determine if fires can be set. If the burn danger is very high or extreme, or the wind is 15 mph or higher, burns are not allowed. Other factors are considered in the decision as well.

Danger warnings are posted on weather sites and weather forecasters let the public know if burn bans around the state exist.

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