Newton Fire/EMS chief Scott Metzler spent most of his Monday in meetings — which is better than spending the day fighting fires.
However, Monday was a day for planning. Harvey County was under a "Red Flag" warning — as was much of the state. A Red Flag Warning means there is an "extreme grassland fire danger."
"Today we have just been making contingencies with how we are going to approach the week with this catastrophic fire danger," Metzler said. "We have worked with the county departments to adjust our initial responses to make sure we have plenty of command showing up, plenty of suppression and plenty of medical units."
At 4:30 p.m. came a reminder of the danger — a grass fire of about two acres broke out at Northwest 12th and Emma Creek Road. Minutes after that alert sent crews to rural Newton, a brush pile began smoldering and sending up smoke near Prestressed Concrete on Old 81 Highway. Winds were gusting to more than 30 miles per hour to fan the flames.
Dry, windy conditions mean any fires could spread out of control dangerously fast. The weather service said conditions can lead to severe fires — and those conditions will continue. Many areas are under a fire weather watch Tuesday as well, but that may be upgraded if conditions don't improve.
Harvey County — and much of southern Kansas — was listed as a severe drought area on the most recent drought monitor, released March 1.
There is really no relief, either. According to Accuweather, there is no precipitation in the forecast until Saturday. Forecasts called for high winds — gusts up to 55 miles per hour, March 6. The winds are forecast to subside a bit Wednesday, but the dry conditions will continue.
The grassland fire index was very high to extreme March 5 and 6. March 7 it backs down to moderate damage.
"It is going to be a bad week," Metzler said. "It would be helpful if we could get some rain. That is about the only thing that will help us at this point."
Metzler said this week is a bad week for using flame — whether that be a chiminea, barbecue or a burn pit.
"The groud fuel out there is really dry and will go up like crazy," Metzler said. "... Don't throw your cigarettes out the window."