Hutchinson Fire Dept. explains extreme threat, efforts to stay ahead
HUTCHINSON, Kan. (KWCH) - Storm Team 12 issued a weather alert day for Tuesday as dry, windy conditions could fuel wildfires across much of the state. It’s a similar setup to last Friday when a large wildfire in Butler County shutdown a portion of the Kansas Turnpike and prompted evacuations of a school and nearby homes. The dry air and strong winds also fueled a fire Sunday in Chautauqua County that required assistance from firefighters across southern Kansas.
With extreme conditions expected to continue Tuesday, Hutchinson Fire Department Battalion Chief Justin Holzrichter said for the Reno County area, the Grassland Fire Index is high, at 150.
“That’s considered catastrophic,” Holzrichter said. “So, that means that if there is something that goes on, we’re not going to be able to catch it and to be able to flank and come on the sides to put it out. It’s going to get ahead of us pretty good, so we’re going to have to look at other tactics at putting the fire out.”
Storm Team 12 reports portions of southwest and central Kansas could see the highest threat for fire danger on Tuesday. The forecast for portions of Kansas calls for low humidity. That, mixed with warm weather and high wind speeds could play a factor in fires starting and getting out of hand.
“With a low humidity, we talk about how much moisture is inside the grass, the wood that is able to burn,” Holzrichter said. “And when that is really low, it doesn’t take much heat, whether it’s a spark or something, to catch that and getting it to go.”
Holzrichter said it will take a collective effort to fight fires Tuesday.
“We do call our surrounding volunteers and they come out and help us,” he said. “They’re just as important as paid firefighters.”
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