We use prescribed burning to maintain and restore native plant areas by intentionally applying fire to certain parks, woodlands, stormwater facilities and roadway medians to reduce weeds and nonnative plants and keep prairie plants healthy.
Prescribed burning helps recycle nutrients back to the soil, encourages new growth and lessens the risk of wildfires by reducing flammable vegetation that builds up over time. Without burning, many of the prairie areas would eventually turn into forests or be replaced by invasive species that lack the water quality benefits native plants with deep roots provide. Those valuable roots increase the capacity of Kansas’ dense clay soils to absorb stormwater runoff.
How a prescribed burn works
We burn 60 to 100 acres of native areas each year when weather and conditions are suitable. We coordinate these fires on a rotating cycle during cooler months, typically February and March or late fall and early winter. Burns are only conducted during daytime hours.
Beforehand, we acquire permits for open burning through the Lenexa Fire Department and Johnson County Environmental Department. Prescribed burns are managed by crews from our Municipal Services and Parks and Recreation departments who have been trained in fire-control techniques. In addition, Lenexa Fire Department personnel are at the ready during each event.
Crews carefully start a fire burning from an established perimeter and move inward. As the fire burns, members of the crew keep the fire contained and stay with the fire until it has burned out. The fire will be completely extinguished before city staff members leave the site.
Any fire can be dangerous if not kept under control. Our crews are trained in fire management and are extremely careful in planning and executing a prescribed fire. We do the following:
Examine a site’s topography and vegetation to determine safety precautions, such as firebreaks, that will keep the fire contained.
Monitor wind conditions, humidity, temperature and the amount of moisture in plant material to ensure it is safe to conduct a burn.
Consider ways to manage smoke dispersal and minimize harm to wildlife.
Develop contingency plans in case a fire escapes the designated area.
Notify nearby residents of burning activity and maintain a safe buffer distance from houses and other buildings.
What to expect during and after a prescribed fire
Crews make great efforts to reduce smoke impacts, but some smoke will be unavoidable. During a prescribed burn, it may temporarily reduce visibility or aggravate certain health conditions. The smell may be present for several days.
After a burn has taken place, the landscape will look charred and lifeless. But the post-fire recovery is usually fairly rapid. The blackened soil heats up quickly by absorbing solar energy, stimulating seed germination, sprouting and growth.
Prescribed burn area maps