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Kansas establishes task force to study and improve wildfire emergency response

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Kansas establishes task force to study and improve wildfire emergency response

Jul 21, 2022 | 4:46 pm ET
By Noah Taborda
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Kansas establishes task force to study and improve wildfire emergency response
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Wildfires like the one that ravaged family homes in December 2021 Paradise, Kansas, are among the reasons the governor is launching a new task force to assess how responding agencies can help prevent, respond and recover from these natural disasters. (Allison Kite/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — A new task force is focusing on ways communities can better prevent, respond and recover from wildfires.

The formation of the group is a response to the many parts of Kansas struck by major wildfires within the past 10 years. The financial losses and threats to the safety of Kansas residents led the governor to establish the task force to take a comprehensive look at what can be done to mitigate the apparent threats.

The task force met for the first time Wednesday and will create a set of recommendations from their work.

“Far too many times in recent years, we’ve seen the devastating toll wildfires take on our communities,” said Gov. Laura Kelly. “We’re doing everything we can to better respond to these disasters, and I am confident the Wildfire Task Force will improve how we support our communities before, during, and after wildfires. I look forward to receiving its recommendations.”

The panel will review the role that local governments and state officials play in responding to wildfires and assess how these entities can provide more support to impacted communities. It also will analyze circumstances that could lead to or worsen a wildfire and regions or locations that may be more vulnerable.

Kansas agriculture secretary Mike Beam will lead the task force. Other members include state legislators and representatives from local, state and federal agencies that play a role in responding to wildfires.

The public will have a chance to provide input before the completion of the task force recommendations.

“Kansas has been fortunate to have these agencies and organizations leading the response to wildfires, and they have been dedicated to improving that response,” Beam said. “The task force will provide an opportunity for them to expand that collaboration including with those who personally experienced the devastation of recent wildfires.”