RENO COUNTY, Kan. (KSNW) – Five months ago, Hutchinson was devastated by the Cottonwood Complex Fire that happened just east of town, took one life, and destroyed many homes and buildings.

Reno County Emergency Management is preparing to apply for more than $1.3 million of wildfire mitigation funding.

Hutchinson Fire Chief Steve Beer said they fight fires every day, but if they were to get this funding, he said it could help them stay ahead of the game rather than waiting for another fire to pop up and destroy more land and homes.

The Hutchinson Fire Department uses mitigation tactics to avoid more fires, such as burns of 10 miles of key areas where fires have crossed roads before.

“It’s not only the mitigation part, but it’s the education part. We try to educate the homeowners and land owners,” said Beer.

Many homes in Reno County have invasive cedar trees.

“We talk about it now is like having a fuel truck next to your home, and that is a pretty uncomfortable thought,” said Beer.

Beer said these trees can catch fire and cause a lot of damage, and the fire department is trying to educate homeowners on the dangers of keeping cedar trees.

But it is not all about cutting every tree down.

“If you got three of them together, maybe you keep one and take the other two down,” said Beer.

Not everyone chooses to remove the trees, and it can be expensive for homeowners.

If the mitigation dollars are awarded, it can help areas that see more fires.

“It would allow those individuals who either can’t take care of it themselves don’t know how or cannot afford it will give them an avenue to contract with someone who can do it for them,” Reno County Emergency Management Director Adam Weishaar said.

“Having some mitigation dollars come in to help us and help my men and women do more than just fighting these fires, be proactive,” said Beer.

If Reno County does get the money, Beer hopes they can focus on key areas known for having wildfires rather than having staggered projects in the county.

Beer and Weishaar will sit down sometime within the next month to write the application and talk with property owners in key areas to see what they can do to best help them protect their property.