Fires in Oklahoma Kansas and Texas
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Fires in Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas

April 16, 2009
Fires (marked in red) are dotted across the landscape, primarily concentrated in Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. Many of these are controlled agricultural fires. As The Wichita Eagle reports, spring is when farmers burn pastureland. For example, according to the agricultural experts, an estimated three-quarters of the 4.5 million acres of native tallgrass prairie in the Flint Hills region of Kansas would be set on fire in the next few weeks. "We burn to enhance our beef production, but more importantly to protect the tallgrass prairie ecosystem," said Mike Holder, Chase County extension agent. Holder added that the fires keep the prairies fresh, preventing the grasslands from growing over with invading plants and weeds. In addition, after a burn, fresh green grass replaces the old, pre-burn dried brown grass that previously covered the prairie.

However, grassfires such as these do create a great deal of air pollution, especially if many fires are burning at once. This can have an impact on human health because it is detrimental to the air quality. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment does try to stagger burnings to reduce the impact, but if the weather conditions are good, many burns can take place on a single day. Generally care is taken to set the fires on days when the wind conditions are correct, however, fires can and do go out of control. This image, captured by the MODIS on the Aqua satellite, shows the fires burning on Tuesday, April 7, 2009. On Wednesday, several large grass fires were reported in south-central Kansas, which were thought to have started from controlled burns. At least one person was killed in the Wichita region.

Some of the larger fires visible on the image may be wildfires. In particular, there were reports on Thursday of large wildfires that cost lives and destroyed property in Oklahoma and Texas.

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