KFH01 Konza prairie fire history


The Konza burn history data is downloadable by year. Watershed names and codes listed are the current watershed designations (2010). Please note that several watershed designations have changed over the history of Konza. This is inevitable due to changes in research objectives but is problematic for those wanting to discover the full burn history of a given area. In some cases watersheds have simply been renamed to reflect changes in experimental burn treatments (e.g. R20A was formerly 1A). In other cases watersheds have been subdivided or aggregated from smaller watersheds (eg. in 1994 3B3UA was added to 20A (currently R1A) to form a larger watershed). In a few cases watershed names have been moved to new areas (e.g. 1D was moved from its original location in 1978 after the acquisition of new property. The original 1D watershed is now part of WB and 20C). Investigators should consult the proper watershed map for a given year to see watershed designations at the time of burning.

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To track the Konza burn history by year. Check burn plan for 2024.


All units designated as spring burns are burned between 1 March and 5 May (April 1±31 d). Spring watershed-burning season continues until 5 May or until all scheduled watersheds have been burned. If weather conditions during this period preclude burning all scheduled units, the KPBS Director will make a decision whether certain scheduled units will a) remain unburned, or b) be burned later than 5 May. All units scheduled for fall burn are burned between 26 October and 5 December (November 15+-20 d). Units scheduled for winter burn are burned between 21 January and 1 March (February 10+-20 d), and summer unit burns are burned between 26 June and 5 August (July 15+-20d).

Wildfires occurring due to lightning on KPBS property, due to any ignition or fires spreading on to KPBS from adjacent properties, or due to escape of a controlled burn on KPBS property are to be extinguished. If direct attack of a wildfire is judged impossible or is attempted and unsuccessful, every effort should be made to confine the wildfire to the smallest number of management units possible through the use of backfires.

1. If any watershed unit is partially burned due to a wildfire, the remainder of that unit is to be burned via prescribed fire within 14 days of the date of the wildfire.

2. If any watershed unit is burned by a wildfire in a year when it is not scheduled to be burned, the general KPBS policy is to reset the clock and leave the unit unburned for the appropriate number of years (e.g. 4, 20) from the date of the unplanned burn. However, the KPBS Director and KPBS Advisory Committee may make a decision to alter the future fire plan for the unit depending upon research objectives, synchrony with other replicate units, etc.

3. For fire management and wildfire control on KPBS, the station is divided into sectors or blocks as follows:
A. Southwest ungrazed (R1A, R20A, 4A, 2A, 4B, 1B, SpA, 2B, SpB)
B. Southeast ungrazed (2C, FA, 20B, R20B, WA, 4F, SuB, FB, SuA, WB, 20C, 1D, 2D, R1B)
C. Bison West (N4A, N4C, N2A, HQD)
D. Bison Central (N1B, N4D, N2B, N20A, and west half of NIA)
E. King's Creek sector (N20B, N4B, east half of N1A, and all K units)
F. Shane Creek sector (C3SA, C3SB, C3SC, and C3A)
G. Cattle Sector (C3B, C3C, C1A)
H. White Pasture (WP)

These sectors are bordered by a gravel road and/or a wide (30') mowed fireguard. All other unit boundaries are bordered by a 10' wide mowed fireguard. Each year selected sections of fireguard may be mowed an additional 8’ wide where prescribed burning is difficult due to high fuel loads, difficult topography, etc. Each year, the KPBS Director will post a map of the upcoming year's burn plan indicating which units are to be burned and which fireguard segments will be mowed an additional 8' in width. No research activities, markers, instruments, etc. are to be placed within 15' of the centerline of any fireguard.

Prescribed Burning Procedures:
Early in each calendar year, the KPBS Director will post copies of the burn plan map and notify all researchers of the anticipated start date for spring burning and instruct them to make necessary preparations. It is the responsibility of all researchers to insure that any necessary preparations (removal of equipment/flags, protection of equipment, pre-burn sampling, etc.) are completed before the first day of spring burning. Researchers are similarly notified of potential dates for winter, summer, or fall burns at least two weeks in advance.

The KPBS site manager is responsible for securing all necessary county open burning permits each year. Burn permit numbers, code orange lists, and any additional information relevant to the prescribed burning program is posted at the fire command center desk in the KPBS Fire Station building. The KPBS site manager distributes copies of the KPBS base map and annual prescribed burning plan map to the Riley County Rural Fire Department, Riley County Police Department, Geary County Sheriff's Office, and Riley County Emergency Preparedness.

The Decision to Burn:
The decision to burn or not to burn on a given day is based on weather conditions, condition of equipment, available crew size, and the location of watersheds to be burned. This decision is made only by the Burn Coordinator and may be made the day before or the morning of the planned burn. The final decision may well be made at the burn location. Burning will not take place if ANY of the following conditions have not been met.

Weather Conditions:
The best conditions for burning are when wind speeds are in the range of 5-15 mph, and not gusty but steady from one direction. Wind direction must be appropriate to the watershed(s) to be burned. Ambient air temperatures should be between 35oF and 80oF, with relative humidity greater than 35%. Higher temperatures and reduced relative humidity cause fires to burn hotter and spread more rapidly, and burning should be avoided. The Burn Coordinator, or his/her designated Crew Leader is responsible for assessing temperatures, wind speeds, and relative humidity conditions in deciding whether conditions are suitable for the particular burns that are planned for that day. National Weather Service forecasts and weather radio should be checked for anticipated changes in weather patterns during the day. The passage of a front may cause a sudden and unpredictable shift in wind direction and intensity. In marginal situations the final decision will be determined by conditions at the burn location, and will be made by the Burn Coordinator before the fire is lit. It is the responsibility of the Burn Coordinator to monitor weather conditions throughout the day.

Crew Size:
Burning of watersheds requires a minimum of 12 persons: 2 truck drivers, 2 tractor drivers, 2 lead hose operators, 2 secondary hose operators, 2 swatters/rovers, and 2 drip-torch carriers. Small plots may be burned with two fire trucks stationed at opposite corners of the plot. In this case, a minimum of four (4) persons must be present: 1 driver, 2 hose operators and 1 drip-torch carrier. Additional workers are desirable when burning watersheds to patrol the perimeter of the fire with swatters. It is the responsibility of the Burn Coordinator to determine the minimum number of crew members necessary for a given burn and insure that an adequate crew size is present to safely conduct the burn. When burning watersheds, an adequate number of crew members should be present to insure that NO portions of the watershed boundary are out of view of at least one individual.

Official Burning Bans:
Burning on Konza Prairie will not take place while an official county or state prohibition on burning ('burning ban') is in effect, unless Konza Prairie has obtained official permission to burn.

Pre-Fire Equipment Check:
Vehicles and equipment are readied before leaving the Headquarters. Trucks and tractors must be filled with gasoline/diesel and oil. Water tanks must be full. Cans of gasoline (red) and drip-torch fuel (blue) must be full. Each unit should have a minimum of 2 drip-torches, cans of gasoline and torch fuel, 3 swatters, a shovel, a rake, and a drinking water jug. Each truck or tractor should have a tool chest and hose repair kit. Pump engine gas and oil should be checked and refilled if necessary. Pump engines should be started and run several times to see that there are no problems. Fire hose reel motors should be checked. Checks are made to ensure that both vehicle and hand-held radios are operational.

Choice of Unit to be Burned:
The choice of area to be burned is often influenced by the wind direction. When burning watersheds close to Highway 177 or Interstate 70, wind direction must be away from the highway in order to minimize smoke on the road. Many Konza Prairie research units can be safely burned from several different wind directions. This also applies to small research plots. The units to be burned on a given day are selected by the Burn Coordinator. The choice of units to be burned is based on wind direction and speed, fireguard conditions, available crew size and experience, and which of the scheduled units can be burned most easily and safely given the wind direction and unit borders (e.g. units with a gravel road border should be burned on days when the gravel road is on the downwind side). Choice of unit to be burned is to be made based on these criteria only, and not on researcher preference.

The Riley County Rural Fire Department, Riley County Police Department, Geary County Sheriff's Office, and the Division of Biology Office and designated contact persons must be called and notified when burning is planned, regardless of the location of the fire. The KPBS Site Manager (or other person designated by the Burn Coordinator) is responsible for completing all necessary pre-burn notifications. When planning to burn adjacent to neighboring property, these neighbors should also be contacted, as well as leasees of cattle units, when cattle are present. After the burn, the list of people and agencies notified before the burn must be notified that the burn is complete.

Post-Fire Equipment Check:
After vehicles and equipment have returned to the Headquarters after use for any prescribed burning or emergencies, fuel and water tanks should be filled, and equipment such as drip-torches, swatters, etc. redistributed to each vehicle. Hoses should be run out, checked for damage, and rewound.

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