Governor issues disaster declaration for Kansas wildfire danger

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Crews work to extinguish a grass fire near Andale High School on April 11, 2018 Crews work to extinguish a grass fire near Andale High School on April 11, 2018

Governor Jeff Colyer issued a disaster declaration for the state of Kansas due to the high potential for wildfires.

The declaration announced Wednesday allows state agencies to preposition firefighting assets and personnel in case fires develop. Extreme grassland fire danger is forecast across much of the state through Friday and perhaps into Saturday due to warmer temperatures, low relative humidity, and strong winds.

The state adjutant general's office said in a news release that Kansas National Guard Black Hawk helicopters and crews are on standby.

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A Red Flag warning has been issued by the National Weather Service for numerous areas of the state. Any fires that start will have extreme fire behavior and the potential to spread rapidly, the release said.

Sedgwick County firefighters on Wednesday battles several grass fires near Andale High School. Capt. Kevin Nelson said a passing train set off spot fires along the tracks. 

Andale High School did not have to evacuate and kept its students inside because of the heavy smoke. Andale Assistant Superintendent said, "the remainder of today and tomorrow and Friday are going to be even worse. So we are just going to have to be on high alert and have our maintenance crew run the sprinklers 24/7 to make sure everything is wet.

Officials with the Kansas Department of Emergency Management remind residents to avoid any activity that could create a spark and start a new fire.

"Because open fires can quickly get out of control, even for experienced fire fighters, people should avoid open burning. Check with the local authorities in each county for information regarding county burn bans. Do not drive on or stop your car on dry or tall grass because your exhaust can spark a fire; do not throw cigarettes on the ground."