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Archive for Wednesday, April 24, 1996

DRY GRASS, NO RAIN, WIND A VOLATILE FORMULA FOR WILDFIRES

April 24, 1996

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The fire danger in the city and county is extremely high. People shouldn't burn trash and should be careful with home barbecues.

How dry is Douglas County?

Dry enough for the exhaust of a tractor to spark a grass fire.

Dry enough that township firefighters worry each time they're called out to a rural blaze.

And dry enough that on a fire-danger scale of one to 10 -- with one being the lowest risk -- that area firefighters consider present conditions to be a 10.

"Any grass fire is a worry, especially at night," said Leroy Boucher, chief of Lecompton City-Township Fire Rescue. "It's just so dry. We need a good rain."

Township firefighters are being called to three to five fires per day, Douglas County Sheriff Loren Anderson said.

"We're still getting a lot of accidental and intentional fires," he said.

Despite a statewide burning ban, many of the fires have gotten out of control after people have illegally burned trash or other materials.

If current dry conditions persist, authorities worry that any grass fire could rage out of control.

"(Tuesday) we've got fairly light winds but the wind's supposed to pick up again (today). That's a real risk when you've got 30, 35 mph winds from the south," Anderson said.

On Tuesday, firefighters from two Douglas County townships put out grass fires at 11 a.m. and 11:18 a.m., both south of U.S. Highway 56.

One of the fires was sparked by the exhaust of a tractor and the other was caused by trash-burning, Anderson said.

Meanwhile, Lawrence firefighters have responded to a handful of grass fires in the city in recent days, including a fire that may have been intentionally set near a garage at 14th and New Jersey on Tuesday.

The fire was out when firefighters arrived, and no damage was reported.

Lawrence Fire Battalion Chief Bill Stark said that although the statewide burning ban does not apply to outdoor grills, people should be extremely cautious when cooking out.

"People leave the tops of their barbecues open and you get hot ashes that blow out and it could start a fire instantly," Stark said.

National Weather Service forecasts for Northeast Kansas called for little relief in the next few days.

Today's weather was expected to be breezy, warmer and partly cloudy with the high around 80 and southwest winds 15 to 25 mph and gusty.

The extended forecast calls for dry conditions Thursday through Saturday.

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