The Kansas National Guard has announced that it will deploy UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters to assist in controlling wildfires across parts of the Midwestern US state.
The helicopters will be equipped with collapsible buckets and deployed to key areas afflicted by wildfire that are inaccessible for ground crews.
The Kansas Forest Service will support the efforts by providing additional single engine air tankers on standby, along with ground resources.
Punishing climate drives wildfire activity
The fires, which are prevalent in several central and western counties in the state, are thought to have been fuelled by a combination of high winds, low humidity and an abundance of dry grassland.
Kansas Governor Laura Kelly declared a State of Disaster Emergency on 9 December in response to the elevated dangers of wildland fires. The majority of the state was still in either an Enhanced Fire Danger outlook, Significant Fire Danger outlook, or Critical Fire Danger outlook/forecast at the end of last week.
Kelly said that: “Prepositioning firefighting personnel and equipment in western Kansas along with those assets responding will allow our aviation assets to quickly respond and keep Kansans safe. Local responders work heroically to respond when wildland fires threaten their communities and the state stands ready to back them up, if needed.”
The US has experienced an increasing number of wildfires in recent years due to climate change. On 17 December the US federal government announced the creation of a new Wildlife Fire Mitigation and Management Commission intended to develop strategies for managing the growing issue.