Information Related to Kansas Flint Hills Controlled Burns
and Other Events that Can Impact Nebraska’s Air Quality
Smoke from prescribed burning and wildfires can affect the air quality in Nebraska. The following resources provide additional information on air quality, prescribed burning and wildfires, and steps to take when the air quality is affected by smoke.
Updated information – March 5, 2020 – A public health advisory system has been developed by Nebraska DHHS in coordination NDEE, Lincoln Lancaster County Health Department and Douglas County Health Department. DHHS has issued a news release about the activation of the system: "DHHS Activates Smoke Advisory System for Flint Hills Burns." *
Weekly Updates on Flint Hills Prescribed Burns - As part of its Smoke Management Plan, the State of Kansas evaluates how the impact of burning could affect populated areas, including in Nebraska. Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) provides weekly updates during the burn season (March and April), including forecasts for the upcoming weekend.
Updates on Wildfires affecting Nebraska air quality * - Information regarding current wildfires affecting the air quality in Nebraska will be posted as necessary. For more information, please tune in to your local news station, or visit the AirNow Current Fire conditions webpage at https://airnow.gov/index.cfm?action=topics.smoke_wildfires *
Check Nebraska’s Air Forecast
For current air quality conditions and forecast for Nebraska, please visit the EPA’s Air now website:
AirNow – Conditions and Forecast *
What should I do to avoid impacts from smoke?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), symptoms of adverse reactions to smoke can include:
A scratchy throat
Shortness of breath
A runny nose
People with congestive heart failure, angina, COPD, emphysema or asthma are at higher risk of having health problems. Older adults are more likely to be affected because of possible health issues as well as young children who may be more affected because their airways are still developing.
Health officials recommend the following steps to protect your health on days when smoke is present:
- Limit or avoid strenuous outdoor activity.
- People with respiratory or heart-related illnesses should remain indoors.
- Stay indoors if possible and keep windows and doors closed. Run an air conditioner if you have one, but keep the fresh-air intake closed and the filter clean to prevent outdoor smoke from getting inside. If you do not have an air conditioner and if it is too warm to stay inside with the windows closed, seek shelter elsewhere.
- Do not add to indoor pollution. When smoke levels are high, do not use anything that burns, such as candles, fireplaces, or gas stoves. Do not vacuum, because vacuuming stirs up particles already inside your home. Do not smoke, because smoking puts even more pollution into the air.
If you have asthma or another lung disease, follow your doctor's advice about medicines and about your respiratory management plan. Call your doctor if your symptoms worsen.
Please visit https://www.cdc.gov/features/wildfires/index.html * for more information.
What is Prescribed Burning?
Prescribed burning is the intentional burning of a specific plot of land for the purposes of managing or restoring vegetation. The use of prescribed fires appears to be increasing throughout the Midwest and within Nebraska. Although prescribed fires do not completely duplicate natural wildfires, they do accomplish many of the same results:
- destruction of invasive species such as red cedar and locust trees,
- increasing species diversity with respect to native long- and mixed-grass prairie species, and
- release of nutrients back into the soil to promote growth of prairie grasses and forbs.
Why Do Prescribed Burns Occur Every Spring?
As KDHE explains in their March 4, 2020 news release*, large areas of the Flint Hills rangeland are burned. These burns help preserve the tallgrass prairie, control invasive species such as Eastern Redcedar and Sumac, and provide better forage for cattle. Prescribed burning minimizes risk of wildfires and is effective in managing rangeland resources.
An informational video is available at the Kansas Flint Hills Smoke Management webpage: http://www.ksfire.org/ *
More Information About Flint Hills
For more information about burning in the Flint Hills, the Flint Hills Smoke Management Plan, and access to their smoke modeling tool, visit:
To view smoke impact forecasts, including for southeast Nebraska, visit:
Additional Resources and Links
Below are several links and attachments related to Prescribed Burn issues. They include:
Novel Air Measurement Technology Supports Smoke Management Practices for Prescribed Burns*, by the U.S. EPA
Act Now or Pay Later – from the University of Nebraska. The article evaluates the cost of reactive versus proactive Easter Redcedar Management. (See PDF below.)
Reducing Smoke Exposure from Prescribed Fires – from the U.S. EPA and Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (TSDR). (See PDF below.)
Eastern Redcedar Threatens School Funding – from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln. (See PDF below).
* This document contains links to non-NDEQ websites; these links will open in a new tab or window.