Much of Kansas is under a Red Flag Warning from the National Weather Service for strong winds and dry conditions.
With the potential for dangerous grassland fires through Wednesday, forecasters elevated the fire danger levels in central and south-central Kansas to extreme and catastrophic categories.
Meteorologist Kevin Darmofal with the National Weather Service Office in Wichita says the dry winter and current conditions create a dangerous situation.
"If a fire were to get going and get large enough, it would be very hard — if not impossible — to control," Darmofal says. "It could spread very quickly over a relatively short period of time and cover a lot of ground."
Darmofal says wind gusts could reach up to 50 mph on Tuesday and the humidity will drop into the 20 percent range creating critical fire weather days through Wednesday. He says everyone needs to stay on guard, and don’t do anything that can spark a fire, such as outdoor burning or throwing a cigarette out of a car window.
"It won’t take much to start a fire because the conditions are still pretty dry coming out of the very dry winter we have had," Darmofal says. "Everything is still pretty brown and hasn’t really greened up yet so that’s the reason we have the extreme fire conditions across the area."
He says the severe weather season in Kansas typically runs from April to June with another shorter period in late fall.
Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer signed an emergency disaster declaration Sunday following a wildfire in the southwest part of the state. Wind gusts of up to 50 mph fueled the fire as it burned about 10,000 hay bales a half mile north of the Stevens County town of Moscow.
Kansas Division of Emergency Management opened its State Emergency Operations Center in Topeka on Saturday. The center is expected to remain active at least through Wednesday. Personnel from KDEM, Kansas National Guard, Office of the State Fire Marshal and Kansas Forest Service are staffing the center.
KDEM Spokeswoman Katie Horner says the "lesson learned" from previous years is to mobilize people quickly to prevent fires from getting out of control. Before the balefire was contained, she says crews were on standby with planes equipped with large buckets of dumping water.
A statewide tornado safety drill is planned for Tuesday, March 6 at 10 a.m. If severe weather is expected on or around the test time, it will be postponed and rescheduled for Thursday, March 8 at 10 a.m.
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