The prescribed burning season in Kansas has started. The outlook for potential wildland fire in Kansas is above normal for parts of Kansas (see recent eUpdate article https://bit.ly/3kn35gM). This article discusses reasons for conducting a prescribed burn and ways to have a safe and successful prescribed burn when much of the state in a heightened state for wildfires. In addition, there are some online tools and resources that will be useful when planning a prescribed burn.
Reasons for conducting a prescribed burn
Brush control and increased stocker gains often top the list when you ask that question. Decades of data have indicated that a mid- to late-spring burn enhances stocker gains with an average of an additional 32 pounds per animal grazing burned pastures. Stocker gains from burned pastures have almost always been higher, even in dry years. Brush control is more apt to occur once the woody plants are leafed out. The exception is eastern red cedar, vulnerable to prescribed burning at any time. Other reasons for burning include conservation of the native plant community, improving grazing distribution, enhancing wildlife habitat, and decreasing the severity of wildfires. Maintenance of conservation reserve program (CRP) acres is another use of prescribed burning. Normally, CRP acres are burned between February 1 and April 15 in eastern Kansas and February 1 and April 30 in the west. Summer burns after July 16 are also allowed in Kansas. Be sure to check with your local FSA office regarding burning of CRP in your county.
Weather forecasts and smoke model
Weather forecasts can be obtained from the NWS offices in Topeka, Wichita, Dodge City, Goodland, Hastings, NE, Kansas City/Pleasant Hill MO, and Springfield, MO. Online, simply type weather.gov/ and the name of your NWS office.
Weather conditions for conducting a safe prescribed burn are:
The amount of cloud cover and mixing height will influence smoke dispersal. Check under the hourly forecast to see what is expected. That hourly forecast is also helpful to see when wind shifts might occur.
A smoke model located at ksfire.org predicts the direction smoke from a fire will travel based on current weather conditions, location, date, amount of fuel, and size of area to be burned. Another site providing useful information relative to conducting a prescribed burn is the Kansas Mesonet. You can see current humidity and wind direction at mesonet.ksu.edu/fire/rh at 70+ locations across the state.
If you plan on prescribed burning this year in particular, here are a few things to be mindful of:
Know the prescribed burn regulations
If you are planning to burn this spring, be sure to know your local regulations. Kansas regulations require the person conducting the burn to:
Your county may require a burn permit. Always check with local authorities to ensure burning is allowed before starting a prescribed burn.
Christopher “Chip” Redmond - Kansas Mesonet
Walt Fick, Rangeland Management Specialist
Eric Ward, Kansas Forest Service