The Kansas Army National Guard has placed two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters on standby in Salina in response to a high potential for wildland fires this week. According to the KAnsas Department of Emergency Management, helicopters from the 1st Battalion, 108th Aviation supported fire suppression efforts in Harvey County over the weekend.
Gov. Laura Kelly issued a state of disaster emergency declaration Nov. 14 due to the potential for wildland fires in counties in northwest and southwest Kansas.
“It is because wildfires can spring up so suddenly under these conditions that I have put this disaster declaration in place,” Kelly said. “Placing resources such as these helicopters on standby help the state respond more quickly if a fire begins to spread.”
The declaration authorizes the use of state resources and personnel to assist with response and recovery operations in affected counties that meet certain criteria. The threat for a potentially dangerous situation exists due to a combination of northwest winds gusting up to 65 mph, blowing dust producing reduced visibilities, and critical fire weather conditions.
“It is critical that all Kansans be aware of the danger for wildfires and do their part to prevent them,” said Angee Morgan, deputy director, Kansas Division of Emergency Management. “A carelessly discarded cigarette or an unattended charcoal grill has the potential to touch off a devastating fire, so we urge everyone to be careful and to contact their local county emergency manager to see if there is a burn ban in their area.”
The State Emergency Operations Center in Topeka is currently activated in response to the coronavirus pandemic and will be monitoring for critical fire weather across Kansas.