Topeka, KANSAS – According to the state officials, these burns help preserve the tallgrass prairie ecosystem, control invasive species, reduce woody encroachment from species such as Eastern Red Cedar, and provide better forage for cattle.
Prescribed burning also reduces the 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 air quality and health impacts.
KDHE 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 2.2 million acres burned on average in the Flint Hills of Kansas and Oklahoma each year.
Prescribed burns release large amounts of particulate matter and other pollutants 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 are more vulnerable to experience symptoms.