Elly Sneath / Kansas State University Research and Extension

WICHITA, Kansas — Trees improve air quality. They keep people and homes cool with shade. They block the breezes that rake across the Kansas plains.

New research suggests the trees planted by people who filled up Kansas over the last century-plus also made the region more susceptible to hard-to-fight fires.

File/Reno County Fire District #6

A legislative audit released Tuesday concluded that while wildfires in Kansas are becoming more frequent, a lack of resources and coordination are hampering the state’s ability to fight them.

Firefighting duties and resources are spread across three separate agencies, which auditors said is complicating wildfire response and communication between state and local officials.

Roy Anderson / Oklahoma Highway Patrol/Oklahoma Forestry Services

One year and nearly a half million torched acres after the Starbuck wildfire, strong winds blow across a parched Kansas landscape.

File/Reno County Fire District #6

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.

File/Reno County Fire District #6

The uncertainty surrounding Gov. Sam Brownback's departure for an ambassador post and prison disturbances were among the top 10 stories in Kansas in 2017.

Brownback prepares to depart

Predictive Service, National Interagency Fire Center

For the third straight year, Kansans can expect a higher than average danger for wildland fire. 

Bryan Thompson / Harvest Public Media

Record wildfires scorched south central and southwest Kansas in the last two years. The Kansas Legislature will investigate whether the state is equipped to fight such large fires.

According to the eight lawmakers pushing for the audit, in 2016 the Kansas Forest Service had about $1 million to spend on stopping wildfires – just a fraction of the budgets in better-prepared states.

Ranchers lost millions of dollars in fencing and livestock in 2016 and 2017.

Clark and Comanche counties alone saw more than half a million acres burned this spring.

File photo by Hilary Stohs-Krause, NET News

The Great Plains are seeing more wildfires, according to a new study, leading researchers to ask why the fires are happening, and fire managers to examine what resources they will need to keep the blazes in check.

Wildfires burned through thousands of acres of Great Plains farm and ranch land in the 1980s. Today, wildfires are likely to char millions of acres.

There's a match going on, but this one is to help raise money for wildfire relief after more than a million and a half acres of crop and ranch land that was burned in four states.

Wildfires raged through parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado and Kansas last month leaving cattle and other livestock dead and burning farmland and fences.

Howard Buffet, a philanthropist, farmer and rancher, has promised matching dollars up to a million for wildfirerelieffund.org.

Bryan Thompson / Harvest Public Media

Gena Kirk did not realize the largest wildfire in Kansas history was closing in on the Kirk Ranch in Clark County on March 6 until she got a call from her brother-in-law. After realizing that her herd was in danger, she jumped into her pickup and sped up the hill where several of her cattle were grazing.

As she herded her cattle onto a green wheat field that would not burn as easily as nearby dry grassland, winds gusting to 60 miles an hour fanned the flames quickly in her direction.