TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNW) – The Kansas Division of Emergency Management has mission assigned the Kansas Army National Guard and Kansas Forest Service to deploy aerial assets to western and central Kansas to assist with fire suppression efforts in multiple counties with active wildland fires.

Gov. Laura Kelly issued a declaration of a State of Disaster Emergency on Thursday, Dec. 9 due to elevated dangers of wildland fires. 

The Kansas National Guard will deploy UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters to key locations to expedite assistance to local responders. The helicopters are equipped with collapsible buckets used to draw water from water sources to drop on areas that are difficult for ground crews to reach.

The Kansas Forest will have additional single-engine air tankers on standby along with ground resources.

“The winds yesterday made it difficult to get burning fires contained,” said Kelly. “Prepositioning firefighting personnel and equipment in western Kansas along with those assets responding will allow our aviation assets to quickly respond and keep Kansans safe. Local responders work heroically to respond when wildland fires threaten their communities and the state stands ready to back them up, if needed.”

“Much of Kansas is recovering from yesterday’s storms and wildland fires,” said Mark Neely, State Fire Management Officer, Kansas Forest Service. “The Kansas Forest Service is working with state and local partners to get fires under control and mopped up so that we can return to normal conditions.”

Conditions across the state are dry with low relative humidity, gusting winds, and an abundance of dry grass and other flammable vegetation.