Leavenworth, Douglas county officials battle grass fires; Tonganoxie chief offers prevention tips
Units from multiple area fire departments battled grass fires Saturday in southwest Leavenworth County.
The fire, which started about 2 p.m., was just east of the county line of Douglas and Leavenworth counties northeast of Loring and 262nd roads. Among the departments Reno Township Fire Department called in to fight the fire were the Wakarusa and Eudora township fire departments in Douglas County and Sherman Township Fire Department and Tonganoxie City Fire Department of Leavenworth County.
The fire spread through pasture and timber in the area, but firefighters were able to prevent damage to numerous homes and outbuildings near the fire.
A burn ban was in effect Saturday for both Douglas and Leavenworth counties, with the National Weather Service’s rangeland danger rating at “extreme.”
The ban continues this week, and Tonganoxie City Fire Chief Jack Holcom reminds residents to continue to be cautious when it comes to anything that might involve fire.
He said recent high winds and low humidity, combined with the dry vegetation, are a recipe for potential fires.
“Even though plants appear to be growing, the stems of those plants are extremely dry, which makes it ideal tender for fire to spread,” Holcom said. “Most of the local fires have been caused by improper burning or controlled burns that get away from individuals.”
He encouraged residents to keep grass mowed short “at least 30 feet around any structures” to help in the fight against potential grass fires.
“Green grass doesn’t burn as quickly as tall, dry grass,” Holcom said.
He also advised residents to refrain from using outdoor fire pits barbecue grills and the like while the burn ban is on.
“Even the smallest amber in the wind can carry quite a ways and ignite the dry grass,” Holcom said.
He encouraged residents to get the proper burn permits when the ban is lifted and not use gasoline, diesel or other agents to accelerate the fire.
“Our citizens have been great about honoring that,” Holcom said, referring to the burn ban. “They’re aware of the hazards. It’s the rural area that we’ve been sent out to assist where the winds are stronger in wide open areas and fire spread more rapidly.”
Holcom said Saturdays are the peak days for grass fires because that’s when people are out and about.
According to national statistics, there are 334,200 brush, grass and forest fires each year, an average of 915 daily.
The fire chief said 35 percent are in open lands or fields, 16 percent near highways or parking areas and 10 percent at or near family homes.