Topeka Independence Day in Kansas promises to be scorching hot, dry and windy, leading state officials to post burn bans across about half the state and ask residents to take extra care with those celebratory bottle rockets and barbecues.
“From small yards to large crop fields and pastures, our state is very dry, which has increased the threat of uncontrolled fire,” Kansas Secretary of Agriculture Dale Rodman said in a statement Tuesday. “It only takes a small spark to ignite a large fire so we strongly urge Kansans to be very careful and take extra precautions this year.”
Gov. Sam Brownback said Tuesday that 36 counties are in drought emergency, 55 counties are in drought warning status and 14 are in watch status. The National Weather Service says the prolonged heat wave will linger, with triple-digit temperatures and no chance of rain expected in Kansas for the rest of the week. Temperatures were forecast to be in the upper 90s and lower 100s, with heat indices ranging between 100 and 105.
“Below normal precipitation patterns are not only depleting available soil moisture, but these types of conditions have resulted in numerous fires as well,” Brownback said in a statement.
The Kansas Department of Agriculture said nearly half the state’s 105 counties have banned burning because of drought conditions. Rodman also said the U.S. Fire Administration has recommended public fireworks displays over individual, private displays.
“Given the high winds, excessive heat and lack of precipitation we’ve been experiencing statewide, all Kansans need to be very careful this Fourth of July,” Rodman said.
Some cities, however, have not banned private fireworks displays, despite the dry conditions. The Hutchinson News reported that both Hutchinson and Reno County have so far declined to ban or put any restrictions on fireworks this week.
“There have not been a lot of complaints and few fires,” Reno County Administrator Gary Meagher told the Reno County Commission Tuesday. “I’ve not had more than a few calls, and there’s only been two fires, right outside the city limits.”
Officials in Garden City, located in southwest Kansas, one of the driest sections of the state, said while they haven’t banned fireworks, they’re concerned about the possibility of fires caused by Fourth of July celebrations, the Garden City Telegram reported. Residents in Garden City are allowed to discharge fireworks from 10:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, according to city laws.
Commissioner Roman Halbur said he would like Finney County to consider adopting standard criteria for future Fourth of July holidays.
“I think we made a big mistake in authorizing aerial fireworks,” Halbur said at the commissioners meeting Monday. “My gut feeling is that if we fight this every year, we ought to put some criteria down. If we’re not in the vicinity of 2 to 4 inches of above-normal rainfall by June, we should never allow fireworks in western Kansas.”