KDHE and KDA Recommend Voluntary Reduction in Burning

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic currently impacting all states, including Kansas, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and the Kansas Department of Agriculture strongly encourage all land owners and managers to voluntarily reduce the number of acres that they intend to burn this spring.

“With the potential for this pandemic overwhelming the state’s medical facilities, any additional respiratory concerns that could be produced from breathing smoke from prescribed fire need to be mitigated,” Dr. Lee Norman, KDHE Secretary, said.

Common health problems related to smoke can include burning eyes, runny nose, coughing and illnesses such as bronchitis. Individuals with respiratory issues, including COVID-19, pre-existing heart or lung diseases, children and the elderly may experience worse symptoms.

With resources of the county emergency response staff already being taxed with COVID-19 response, it is important to minimize responses that would come with prescribed fire activity.

It is critical that land managers in areas included in the Smoke Model available online at ksfire.org consult the model if they do choose to burn. The model indicates the level at which a burn would contribute to urban area air quality problems. Secretary of Agriculture Mike Beam urges land managers to refrain from burning, especially if your area is predicted in the large (red) contribution range.

“Prescribed burning is a valuable land management tool in the efforts to fight invasive species and maximize land productivity, and this request should not be interpreted as an indictment of the practice of burning,” Beam said. “However, the circumstances surrounding the coronavirus pandemic have created a situation that calls for reducing burned acres this spring.”  

For the latest information related to COVID-19, and to sign up for daily updates sent to your email inbox, visit the Kansas Department of Health and Environment’s COVID-19 Resource Center at www.kdheks.gov/coronavirus.

On January 11, 2016 Ottawa County Commissioners signed a new resolution controlling burning within the boundaries of Ottawa County.  On Monday, October 24, 2016 Ottawa County Commissioners signed a new resolution with revisions to the original resolution signed on January 11, 2016.

This original resolution establishes a two-step approach to burn control by requiring that prior to any act of open burning, a person seeking to perform an act of open burning must: (1) pre-register with the Ottawa County Emergency Management and obtain a registration number identifying that individual; (2) on the day they wish to burn, call Ottawa County Dispatch with their registration number and obtain a Burn Notice Number ("BNN"). The main revision signed on October24, 2016 state that absolutely NO burning shall take place within 150 feet of any structure, oil tank or vehicle(s) not owned or operated by the Registrant.

With the approach of warmer weather many people have started burning.  Ottawa County Emergency Management would like to take this time to remind everyone that Ottawa County has a two-step approach for controlled burning.  The first step is that you register with Ottawa County Emergency Management and the second is that you call the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office at 785-392-2157 prior to starting any controlled burn. 

Other criteria that Ottawa County requires:

  • Absolutely NO burning shall take place when wind speeds are 15 mph or greater.
  • Absolutely NO burning shall be initiated after sunset or before sunrise unless conducted for agricultural or crop rotation purposes.
  • The Fire Chief of the jurisdiction for where the fire will be located shall have and retain the authority to instruct Ottawa County Dispatch not to allow any burning or place his jurisdiction under a burn ban.
  • Absolutely NO burning shall take place within 150 feet of any structure, oil tank or vehicle(s) not owned or operated by the Registrant.

Ottawa County Emergency Management would also like to pass along some additional safety tips and conditions for open burning.   An adult should always be present during open burning.  Children and pets should be kept a safe distance away.  Use paper and kindling to start the fire and add progressively larger pieces.  Never use gasoline, kerosene or any other flammable liquid to start a fire because the risk of personal injury is high.  Burn one small pile of material at a time and slowly add to it.  This helps to keep the fire from getting out of control.  Select a burn location away from any utility lines.  An adult must attend the fire until it is completely extinguished. 

Have fire extinguishing materials on hand including a water supply, shovels and rakes.  The water supply can be a pressurized water fire extinguisher, a pump can or garden hose.  Test the water source before igniting the fire.  You do not want to find the water is off or that the hose is cracked when you need it. 

Remember that alternate methods of disposal of natural materials are available such as using them again in different forms.  Tree limbs, brush and other forestry debris can be chipped or composted into landscaping materials. 

Remember to be safe, take precautions and use common sense.  Be prepared to extinguish the fire if winds pick up or the weather changes.  If a fire gets out of control, call 911 for the fire department immediately.  Use the utmost caution to prevent injury to yourself and others or any fire damage to your home or property.

Call Ottawa County Sheriff's Office prior to starting and after completing any controlled burns with your burn registration number!  Wind speeds must be 15 mph or below before any controlled burns are allowed.