Fire departments on high alert


HOLCOMB, Kan. (KSNW) — Dry conditions across the state are putting fire departments on high alert. Holcomb’s fire department is getting ready for the worst.

This time last year the small department responded to wildfires several miles wide.

“They burned about 10,000 acres,” said Chief Bill Knight. “We almost never had a fire in our district quite that big. This year we’re prepared better for those types of fires.”

Knight says climate change and weather patterns have caused wildfire season to start weeks earlier than normal.

“Whatever the factor though, it seems that they do step up, not only in frequency but intensity. A lot of that of course in our area is caused by the wind and the way pressure systems move through.”

He also says dry winters in recent years have led to wet springs and summers, like the blizzard that hit at the end of last April.

“That causes an explosive growth of weeds, ditches, all kinds of different things out there,” said Knight.

That extreme growth means more danger once the dry winter rolls around again.

“Those things grow. After the first couple of hard freezes, they die, so what’s green and growing will eventually be what we call brown and burning.”

He says if individuals regularly clear brush and keep grass short, that can help slow down fires once they break out.

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