More extreme weather in Kansas likely to mean more wildfires

Mar 28, 2017

Several large wildfires broke out across the High Plains region earlier this month.
Credit Lt. Seth Frizzell / Holcomb Community Fire Department

Many scientists believe there will be more and more days of weather that puts Kansas at risk of wildfires.

As The Wichita Eagle reports, although scientists can’t attribute any particular weather event to climate change, the extreme weather the past two years in Kansas is consistent with climate change models, says Mike Flannigan, professor of wildland fire at the University of Alberta in Canada.

According to Chuck Rice, professor of agriculture at Kansas State University, warmer temperatures in January and February, in combination with low precipitation, means more evaporation, leaving conditions extremely dry.

In the months ahead, the state will conduct an “after action” report, which will look at what lessons can be learned from the March 6 fire that burned over 700,000 acres.

Larry Biles, director of the Kansas Forest Service, said the assumptions the state makes about how likely it is to face more massive wildfires will be one of the main drivers of whether Kansas would consider spending more money on fighting fires.

Biles said it wouldn’t surprise him if the state had more large wildfires over time.