WICHITA, Kan. -- Saturday was a busy day for farmers and ranchers in the Flint Hills. Many of them burnt off the grass from their pasture, something they do most every year.
Many burnt their fields ahead of a storm system, so the grass would be dry and burn hot. Issues arose far away from the fires; smoke was sent into the more heavily populated areas in south central Kansas.
The smoke was so thick that many people complained that it was hard to breath and their eyes were burning from exposure to the hazy fumes.
Sunday, John Grange was burning the old grass off a hay meadow his family owns near El Dorado in Butler County. "Basically what we are doing is what mother nature would have done with a lightning strike years ago," he said.
Grange, his son and daughter-in-law were burning small patches at a time of the 120 acre meadow, making sure that the fire did not spread out of control. The pair only needed four items to conduct the control burn; a canister of gasoline/diesel mix to help spread the fire, a leaf blower to accelerate the burn, four-wheelers to get around and tanks of water to put out any section of fire that was starting to go uncontrolled.
They burn the field to eliminate plants outside of the native grasses. "Typically what we try to do is get rid of the red cedars, honey locust and weeds that grow up here" Grange said, "so that when we process the hay we have good grass on there."
In addition to eliminating trees and weeds, the ash is also rich in nutrients that the soil can reabsorb and use for the next years grass.
Fire officials do monitor the controlled burns and dictate when the farmers and ranchers can ignite their fields. Factors like wind and relative humidity play a big role on when it is safe to burn the grass.