TOPEKA (KSNT) – The Kansas Department of Health and Environment issued a health advisory for the upcoming Flint Hills Burning Season.

March and April is prairie burning season in the Flint Hills of Kansas and Oklahoma, according to the KDHE. The burning is conducted to help manage and preserve the natural ecosystem of the tallgrass prairie, control invasive species, reduce woody encroachment from species such as Eastern Red Cedar and Sumac and provide better forage for cattle but the smoke created from the controlled fires can have a negative effect on air quality.

To help keep tabs on the fires and air quality, the KDHE will activate the Kansas smoke modeling tool on March 1 which uses computer models to predict the potential contribution of smoke to downwind air quality problems. Over two million acres are burned on average in the Flint Hills every year in Kansas and Oklahoma.

“For the twelfth-consecutive year, we are proud to have the opportunity to provide this important tool for the prescribed fire community,” said Douglas Watson, meteorologist at the KDHE Bureau of Air. “We continue to encourage ranchers and land managers to take advantage of this smoke modeling resource to spread out their burns more effectively and mitigate potential air quality impacts.”

The burns release large amounts of particulate matter and other pollutants into the air that can form ozone. These can effect your health by causing burning eyes, runny nose, coughing and illnesses such as bronchitis. People with respiratory issues, pre-existing heart conditions or lung diseases, children and elderly are more vulnerable to experiencing symptoms.

In order to protect your health on days when smoke is present, the KDHE recommends the following:

  • Healthy people should limit or avoid strenuous outdoor exercise.
  • More vulnerable people should remain indoors.
  • Help keep indoor air clean by closing doors and windows and running air conditioners with air filters.
  • Stay hydrated by drinking lots of water.
  • Contact your doctor if you have symptoms such as chest pain, chest tightness, shortness of breath or severe fatigue.

For additional information about the burning in the Flint Hills, click here.