Dry conditions and increased grass growth from large amounts of rain in 2008 are helping 2009 shape up to be an unusual fire season for the state, according to the Kansas Forest Service.
“In these first three months more than 15,000 acres have burned in wildfires in Kansas, and we’ve just barely started the fire season,” said Eric Ward, fire planning specialist with the Kansas Forest Service.
 Two factors are affecting the increased concern with a large amount of wildfires this year. There have been extremely dry conditions and a heavier fuel loading, meaning an above-average growth from last year’s rain caused there to be more grass to burn.
“We’re concerned that people will be so desperate to burn that they won’t pay as much attention to the weather conditions,” Ward said.
The Kansas Forest Service is advising that if anyone wants to have a controlled burn, they need to plan according to the weather and double their resources.
“Even those that have a lot of experience with fire burning are being surprised by fire behavior this year,” Ward said. “Whatever it normally takes to control a burn, you need to double it. Also, check weather conditions at least a day in advance, if not more and by the hour the day you plan to burn. I’ve seen embers from a controlled burn start a new fire the next day.”
Another concern the Kansas Forest Service has is possible Environmental Protection Agency regulations. Most burning happens during the first two weeks of April, when ranchers have to burn fields for cattle production. In the past, if a large number of people choose to burn during the same time, Kansas has been known to set off the EPA’s smoke alarms in North Dakota and Tennessee.
“People that don’t have to burn during that time need to spread their burning out,” Ward said. “If we don’t it could become a big burden on local communities. The EPA would crack down and our daily routines could be changed.”
 The most important thing to do before you have a controlled burn is to call McPherson County Communications to get permission to burn at 800-365-9780.
“When you call the dispatcher will ask your name, phone number, what you are burning, where and for how long,” said Dillard Webster, director of Emergency Management for McPherson County. “They are predicting above average temperatures and below average rainfall for the next three months so it is very important for people to call first. If they don’t, the fire department is instructed to come put the fire out.”