State Fire Management Officer Mark Neely address the state's legislative budget committee in September 2018. | Download this photo.
Kansas Forest Service receives first-ever state funding for wildfire response and mitigation
State funding will help KFS meet demands for training and education by local fire authorities
May 28, 2019
MANHATTAN, Kan. — For the first time in state history, Kansas has appropriated funds to the Kansas Forest Service for statewide wildfire suppression and mitigation efforts.
The $650,000 appropriation was included in the fiscal year 2020 budget proposed by the Kansas Legislature and signed by Gov. Laura Kelly on May 20. Up to this point, all wildland fire management programs and training from KFS have been funded by federal grants.
“The funding appropriated by the Legislature allows us to meet the demand for outreach, education and training by local fire authorities, communities and property owners,” said Mark Neely, the state fire management officer with Kansas Forest Service.
Conditions over the last few years including drought, high-risk weather events, and changes in land use have all increased the occurrence and severity of wildfires across Kansas and the Great Plains.
“Public education on mitigating the risk of wildfire and training rural and local fire departments on wildfire suppression tactics are key in preparing Kansans for inevitable future wildfires,” said Neely.
With the new state funding, KFS will position field staff in different regions of the state. They will work directly with local fire authorities to provide wildland-fire specific training and support in the event of a fire.
“The funding we received from the Legislature is a step in the right direction in continuing our service to local fire authorities,” said Neely. “The 13,000 volunteer firefighters across Kansas deserve quality, wildfire-specific training that is delivered on their schedule and on their home turf.”
State funding will also provide for homeowner education events such as the residential wildfire preparedness workshop held in the Sandhills region northeast of Hutchinson in 2018.
The push for state funding was prompted by the 2018 Legislative Performance Audit Report titled, “Kansas Wildfire Management: Evaluating the Adequacy of Kansas’ Wildfire Suppression System.” The review occurred after the wildfires of 2016 and 2017, which caused more than $80 million in damage and economic losses.
The audit recommended the Legislature amend state law to designate a single state entity to lead the state’s wildfire suppression system and provide sufficient resources and funding to that entity.
“KFS looks forward to working with local fire authorities and Kansas legislators to continue improving wildland fire management across the state,” said Neely.