WICHITA, Kan. — Back-to-back years of record wildfires in Kansas could end up costing as much as $100 million.
Kansas Department of Agriculture and Forest Service reports show that damages so far exceed $80 million.
That includes roughly $50 million to cover about 3,700 miles of burned fences and as many as 8,000 dead cattle from wildfires this year along the Kansas-Oklahoma border.
But those numbers don’t include the loss of homes and other structures, such as barns and garages, or power lines.
The department’s data also doesn’t include the $3 million spent on firefighting or the thousands of hours of lost wages from volunteer firefighters, the Wichita Eagle (http://bit.ly/2rDIjYP ) reported.
Local fire departments often found themselves asking for help on social media because a statewide system using radios wasn’t effective. Because many firefighters were busy putting out flames in their own area, more rural regions that suffered the most damage had almost no firefighting help on the first day of the disaster.
A Forest Service report states that 90 percent of the more than $30 million in damages from the Anderson Creek fire in Oklahoma and Kansas occurred during the first day.
Some lawmakers are asking to audit Kansas’ firefighting system to highlight how the state can improve and provide necessary resources.
“What I want to see develop is an interagency, statewide coordinated wildland fire suppression system,” said Democratic Rep. John Carmichael of Wichita, who is helping lead the effort. “Whether it’s bulldozers, airplanes, Blackhawks, whatever it takes. I do know this — it takes money.”
The Forest Service has also proposed to double its wildfire and mechanics staff from six to 12 people, with four of them in place before the next fire season hits in March 2018.
“It’s not a question of if more of these wildfires will occur, it’s a question of when,” said Brad Loveless, member of the Forest Service’s advisory board. “Like any insurance policy, it’s a matter of making prudent preparations to minimize the cost to people and property.”
Information from: The Wichita (Kan.) Eagle, http://www.kansas.com