Governor Laura Kelly Announces Creation of Wildfire Task Force

TOPEKA – Governor Laura Kelly today announced the creation of the Governor’s Wildfire Task Force, a group of leaders from across the state, to create recommendations for how Kansas communities can better prevent, respond to, and recover from wildfires. The Task Force met for the first time today over Zoom.

“Far too many times in recent years, we’ve seen the devastating toll wildfires take on our communities,” said Governor 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.”

Several parts of Kansas have experienced large-scale wildfires in the last 10 years, causing catastrophic financial losses and threatening the safety of residents, fire fighters, and first responders. The Governor’s Wildfire Task Force will take a comprehensive look at mitigating wildfire threats, review the role that local governments and state officials play in responding to such emergencies, and address how these entities can provide more support to communities impacted by devastating wildfires.

The Task Force will be led by Kansas Secretary of Agriculture Mike Beam and appointments include representatives from local, state and federal agencies and organizations which have played an active role in responding to wildfires across the state, along with several state legislators.

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

Critical issues that will be assessed and addressed by the Task Force include the circumstances that can lead to wildfires and cause them to expand, specific regions or locations within Kansas that are most vulnerable to catastrophic wildfires, and ways that officials can better respond to wildfires in the future.

Prior to the completion of the Task Force’s report outlining recommendations, the public will have the opportunity to provide input on how public officials and the private sector can work together to better prepare for future wildfire threats, develop emergency response plans, and recover from wildfire disasters.

Members of the Governor’s Wildfire Task Force include:

Mike Beam Kansas Department of Agriculture
Steve Beer Hutchinson Fire Department
Elaine Bowers Kansas Legislature
David Braun Kansas Livestock Association
Jeanne Bunting Kansas Division of Emergency Management
Dennis Carlson Kansas Prescribed Fire Council
Terry David Kansas Association of Counties
Daryl Donohue Kansas Association of Conservation Districts
Kathleen Fabrizius Kansas Emergency Management Association
Jason Hartman Kansas Forest Service
Tom Hawk Kansas Legislature
Doug Jorgensen Kansas Fire Marshal
Duane Keller Agricultural Landowner
Dean Krehbiel USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service
Dennis McKinney USDA Farm Service Agency
Mark Neely Kansas Forest Service
Butch Post Kansas Emergency Management Association
Jason Probst Kansas Legislature
Chip Redmond K-State Research and Extension
Erik Sartorius Kansas League of Municipalities
Stuart Schrag Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks
Lee Tafanelli Kansas Electric Cooperatives
Troy Waymaster Kansas Legislature
Brenden Wirth Kansas Farm Bureau