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Dry conditions making burns dangerous, officials say

By The Mercury

With spring pasture burning season rapidly approaching, Pottawatomie County officials have a recommendation: Don’t!

Due to continuing dry conditions, Bruce Brazzle, county fire supervisor, is asking landowners to burn only if absolutely necessary.

“The winter moisture Pottawatomie County received has done little to relieve drought conditions in the county,” Brazzle told county commissioners Monday. “Pottawatomie County and the surrounding area are still significantly below normal rainfall averages.”

Already, the 2013 burn season has been more volatile and unpredictable than previous years, according to Brazzle.

“Ordinary grass fires are reacting totally different. Fires are crossing creeks and can even start from a spark from a piece of equipment hitting a rock,” Brazzle said.

“To combat the increased severity of these burns the county has had to expend greater resources than normal to control and extinguish the fires in these extreme conditions,” he said. “This has already taken a toll on equipment and, more importantly, on the neighbors who have volunteered as firefighters to protect us.”

If it’s absolutely necessary to burn, Brazzle recommends the following: have a plan, adequate equipment and water; and before burning, check the burn policy status on the county’s website, www.pottcounty. org.

The situation in Pottawatomie County appears to be a bit more sensitive than in Riley County, where April pasture burning is conducted under a permit system. County officials here have not issued any prohibitions or particular warnings.

“We are allowing range pasture management burning only in compliance with the smoke management plan,” noted Laurie Harrison, Riley County’s emergency management coordinator. That system requires those who want to burn pastures to obtain a permit, and then to call for specific approval based on current-day conditions. Harrison noted that fire danger does vary based on wind conditions and humidity.

In other business at Monday’s meeting in Westmoreland, the commission:

• Adopted a resolution selecting King Construction, Inc. as low bidder for construction of the Wilson Creek Bridge on Westmoreland Road, northwest of Westmoreland.

King’s bid of $407,996 was one of four submitted for the project, expected to begin in early June.

The commission also authorized payment of $85,900 to the Kansas Department of Transportation, the county’s 20 percent share of the project.

• Authorized a letter of support for a flood risk management plan for the Blue and Kansas River Confluence being conducted by the city of Manhattan and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

The $125,000 federally funded plan, presented by Chad Bunger, the city’s floodplain manager, entails gathering data along the Big Blue River to develop an “inundation model” for potential future flooding.

“I think we should throw our support toward it since part of our county is in the city limits (of Manhattan),” said Commissioner Gary Yenzer.

The plan, to begin next month and be completed in 2014, will study a five-mile stretch of the Big Blue from K-18, north to the Tuttle Creek Spillway, and south to the confluence of the Kansas River.

Bunger said Manhattan has conducted similar studies in other areas of the city.

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