State health officials reminds Kansans that March and April are a time when large areas of the state’s Flint Hills rangeland are burned.
According Kansas State University, these burns help preserve the tallgrass prairie, control invasive species such as Eastern Red Cedar and Sumac and provide better forage for cattle. Prescribed burning minimizes risk of wildfires and is effective in managing rangeland resources. Smoke from the burns can influence the air quality of downwind areas. The use of smoke management techniques is vital to reduce impacts.
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment will activate the Kansas smoke modeling tool on March 1, prior to widespread burning in the Flint Hills. The computer models use fire data and current weather conditions to predict the potential contribution of smoke to downwind air quality problems. There are approximately 2.1 million acres burned on average in the Flint Hills of Kansas and Oklahoma each year.
“We encourage ranchers and land managers to take advantage of this smoke modeling resource to spread out their burns more effectively and mitigate potential air quality impacts,” said Douglas Watson, meteorologist at the KDHE Bureau of Air. “For burns to be safe and effective, weather and rangeland conditions must be ideal. Many landowners will burn at the same time when such conditions are met. Air pollutants from the burns can affect persons in the Flint Hills and can be carried long distances to more populated areas.”
Prescribed burns release large amounts of particulate matter and substances that can form ozone. Particulate matter and ozone can cause health problems, even in healthy individuals. Common health problems include burning eyes, runny nose, coughing and illnesses such as bronchitis. Individuals with respiratory issues, pre-existing heart or lung diseases, children and elderly may experience worse symptoms.
Steps to protect your health on days when smoke is present in your community include:
- Healthy people should limit or avoid strenuous outdoor exercise.
- People with respiratory or heart related illnesses should remain indoors.
- Help keep indoor air clean by closing doors and windows and running air conditioners with air filters.
- Keep hydrated by drinking lots of water.
- Contact your doctor if you have symptoms such as chest pain, chest tightness, shortness of breath or severe fatigue.
For more information about the burning in the Flint Hills, the Flint Hills Smoke Management Plan, t