Kansas landowners asked to burn less this spring due to COVID-19

By Zoe Brown

TOPEKA, KS (KCTV) — Due to the pandemic, the authorities are asking for landowners and land managers to voluntarily reduce the number of acres they plan to burn this spring.

The recommendation comes from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment and the Department of Agriculture. It’s due to the additional respiratory issues that can come with breathing smoke-filled air.

“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,” said Dr. Lee Norman, KDHE Secretary.

“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,” the departments said.

Common health problems related to smoke include: burning eyes, a runny nose, coughing, and illnesses such as bronchitis.

The departments said people with respiratory issues (including COVID-19), pre-existing heart or lung diseases, children, and the elderly may experience worse symptoms.

“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,” they said. “The model indicates the level at which a burn would contribute to urban area air quality problems.”

Secretary of Agriculture Mike Beam is urging land managers to refrain from burning, especially if their 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.”