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Kansas Forest Service Sends Firefighters to Help in South Dakota
South Dakota Ag Connection - 06/21/2021

A 10-person group of Kansas Forest Service wildland firefighters departed last week for South Dakota in anticipation of increased wildfire starts there.

Wildland fire-suppression specialists are grouped and assigned in "modules." The newly formed Kansas State Fire Module was requested to pre-position in the Black Hills National Forest for as many as three weeks.

The module's South Dakota assignment is its first.

"This has been a work in progress over the last year and a half," said Chris Hanson, northwest district fire management officer for the Kansas Forest Service. "It's nice to see this project come to fruition and get the module out." Hanson will serve as the leader for the assignment.

Suppression modules focus on assisting with wildfire suppression, removing vegetation to lessen the threat of wildfire, and other fire-management duties. The module is also equipped to provide the initial response if a new fire starts.

When weather conditions are favorable for new wildfires, fire-management officials can request resources for a severity assignment -- similar to the way severe weather warnings are issued -- to allow for the staging of resources in an area that is expected to need additional help.

A severity assignment was requested for western South Dakota because a combination of above-normal temperatures, gusty winds and low humidity have combined to create elevated fire weather conditions that make controlling a wildfire more difficult.

Hanson said the formation of the suppression module and resulting assignments provides Kansas firefighters a valuable opportunity to work on training that they otherwise might not be able to receive.

"I can definitely see this module being used more in the state of Kansas and nationally. We saw, last year, more fire-suppression modules being ordered -- the module gives our firefighters the opportunity to get more training they can bring back to the state," Hanson said.

The suppression module is made up of full-time KFS staff members along with fire-protection specialists who work on-call for the Kansas Forest Service.

"KFS wildland fire staff took the initiative then dedicated their time and energy to create the suppression module" said State Forester Jason Hartman. "We are very excited to see that hard work be put to use helping others."

According to the National Interagency Fire Center, 33 large fires have burned more than 360,000 acres across 10 states as of June 16. As fire activity increases, personnel, equipment and firefighting resources become scarcer. This results in a shortage of needed resources to meet fire-management objectives.

"As what used to be fire season becomes a fire year, resources like the KFS suppression module become more and more important," Hartman said. "I hope the module has a safe and productive assignment, and we look forward to their return home."

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