Audit: Kansas wildfire efforts inadequate

Past two years of fires cost millions in damage

June 24, 2018 - 12:02 pm
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An audit has found that Kansas doesn't have money to devote to wildfires.

State auditors say state and local officials have had issues coordinating their firefighting efforts. They say efforts to prevent and fight wildfires in the state are inadequate.

"Kansas often requires state agencies and local jurisdictions involved in wildfire suppression efforts to cover their own costs," the report says.

The state's fire marshal, Doug Jorgensen, and other officials said the Forest Service needs more funding so that the agency can use its fire engines. The agency can't afford to pay for part-time workers to operate the vehicles, according to the audit.

The audit's findings also show local officials didn't always know when to call for state assistance and weren't aware of what resources Kansas could provide to help fight wildfires. But Jorgensen said a workshop was held in December to address those concerns.

"There's been a marked improvement of locals requesting help sooner this year than in past years," Jorgensen said, adding that it's one of the reasons the state has not seen a significant out of control fire so far this year.

The audit's findings come after fires swept through the state the past two years and cost millions in damage.

"The system is woefully under-resourced," said Republican Rep. Melissa Rooker of Fairway, who was among the lawmakers who requested the audit.

State fire officials in response to the audit said that they have made efforts to improve communication and provide better training for local firefighters.

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