Prescribed burning can be conducted at just about any time of the year, depending on your objectives. Until recently, dry conditions have contributed to wildfires and escapes from prescribed burns. Nearly all of Kansas has received significant rainfall during the last couple of weeks. Prescribed burns will become more frequent when the rains stop and the sun shines. As landowners plan to burn there are some available websites to consult to assist with conducting a safe burn and minimizing the impacts of smoke on populated areas.
Use the National Weather Service for forecasts. Go to http://www.weather.gov and click on Kansas. Select a site on the map near the location you plan to burn. Find the hourly weather forecast. Good conditions for conducting a prescribed burn and minimizing the impacts of smoke include: 45-70 F temperature, 40-55% relative humidity, 5-15 mph winds, >1800 feet mixing height, and 30-50% cloud cover.
Next, check out the website http://www.ksfire.org and use the smoke dispersion model to determine where the smoke from your fire will go. Click on the smoke model (“Click Here to Access Smoke Model”).
A color-coded map showing the cumulative effects of burning in the Flint Hills area will appear. Green indicates areas where the impact will be small, yellow is the area of medium impact, and red indicates a large impact of smoke from burning on major cities. To determine the direction the smoke from your fire is likely to move select “Your Fire Impacts,” county, fuel load, size (acres to burn), and date. The model will present the likely smoke plume from your fire over a 48-hour period. The smoke model only predicts where the smoke is likely to travel. It doesn’t mean environmental conditions are safe to burn.
Another consideration is to determine if the regional air quality is good or bad. To do that go to the website: https://www.airnow.gov. “Current AQI” gives the combined effects of ozone and PM (particulate matter) on the air quality index (AQI). By selecting the “More Maps” tab, current ozone and current PM can be seen.
Prescribed burning is an essential tool for maintaining the integrity of our prairies in Kansas. Plan well, burn safely, and remember that smoke from your fire can have negative impacts downwind.
Walt Fick, Rangeland Management Specialist