Please Reduce Prescribed Burning During the Pandemic

Submitted by Carol Baldwin, Ph.D.

Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Community Vitality

Umberger 103, 1612 Claflin Road, Kansas State University,Manhattan, KS 66506

785.532.0416
Yesterday the Kansas Department of Agriculture and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment released a notice requesting a state-wide, voluntary reduction in prescribed burn activity this spring).
The reason for this request is to minimize demands on health care providers.  People with sensitivity to smoke such as those with asthma can be affected by prescribed burning activity and need to seek medical care.
While not often mentioned, the current COVID-19 pandemic medical needs are in addition to the normal ongoing medical case load, and it doesn’t take much excess to strain the system.  Consider the health care capacity in your county and how it might be affected; coronavirus patients who are hospitalized often need lengthy periods (1-3 weeks) in intensive care.
Much of Kansas is fortunate not to have people who have tested positive for the coronavirus (daily updates can be found on the KDHE website).
But the list of counties with infected people is growing. Yesterday there were 168 cases in the state; today there are 202, and it’s estimated that there will be over 400 next week.  (https://kdhe.maps.arcgis.com/apps/opsdashboard/index.html#/05f4169dc6394aa98895072b94734134)
We have postponed our own smoke emissions research project to avoid the necessity of participating in a prescribed burn this spring.  Please consider what you can do to reduced smoke during this special period.  And as always, please check the smoke model and burn primarily on green days (http://ksfire.sonomatechdata.com/view/summary/) to minimize smoke impacts.
Burn safely, keep healthy.
The state government request was sent out on March 26, 2020.
Here is the statement:
KDHE and KDA recommend voluntary reduction in burning In response to the COVID-19 pandemic currently impacting all states, including Kansas.
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment and the Kansas Department of Agriculture strongly encourage all land owners and managers to voluntarily reduce the number of acres that they intend to burn this spring.
“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,”Dr. Lee Norman, KDHE Secretary, said.
Common health problems related to smoke can include burning eyes, runny nose, coughing and illnesses such as bronchitis.
Individuals with respiratory issues, including COVID-19, pre-existing heart or lung diseases, children and the elderly may experience worse symptoms.
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.
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.
The model indicates the level at which a burn would contribute to urban area air quality problems.
Secretary of Agriculture Mike Beam urges land managers to refrain from burning, especially if your 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.”
For the latest information related to COVID-19, and to sign up for daily updates sent to your email inbox, visit the Kansas Department of Health and Environment’s COVID-19 Resource Center at www.kdheks.gov/coronavirus.

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