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Riley County Home Page

Posted on: March 21, 2022

Controlled Outdoor Burning in Riley County

hillside with fire lines at night

Each spring and fall, burn permits are issued to property owners in Riley County to help maintain vegetation, fire fuel loads, and revive the prairie. Prescribed burns benefit native grasslands and promote the sustainability of the ecosystem. When weather conditions allow, people with burn permits may conduct controlled burns on their property. 

Before burning

  1. Apply for a burn permit.
  2. Check your local weather conditions and rangeland fire index. Property owners are responsible for their fire and the smoke it produces. 
  3. Make sure you have enough manpower and equipment (shovels, rakes, water with pumps) to control the burn.
  4. Make sure your equipment is in good working order.
  5. Call the controlled burn hotline before lighting the fire at (785) 565-6216 or (866) 565-6216 toll-free.
  6. Call the controlled burn hotline when your burn is complete.
  7. Check your fire later that day and recheck again the next day as rekindled fires are a leading cause of major wildfires and property damage in Riley County.

Benefits

The benefits of safe and effective controlled burning include restoring nutrients to the soil by removing dead organic matter, preventing invasive species from out-competing native prairie plants, removing dry lingering “tinderbox” plant matter, and maintaining a grassy environment where woody trees would otherwise take over.
  • If dry plant matter builds up on the prairie floor, an uncontrolled fire is more likely to break out. Removing dead organic matter through controlled burning reduces this danger and returns the nutrients to the soil at the same time.
  • Burning removes invasive plant species, which would otherwise take over and out-compete native plants for nutrients.
  • A grassy environment would become an unnaturally wooded area if not controlled. Burning helps maintain the natural grasslands and habitat for native creatures.

Managing Smoke

The Flint Hills Smoke Management Plan was developed to balance the need for prescribed fire in the Flint Hills with the need for clean air in downwind communities. 

The person performing the controlled burn must take into consideration the weather conditions and what effect the smoke generated by their controlled burn will have on neighboring property and the safety of nearby public roadways.

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