TOPEKA (KSNT) – Kansas Governor Laura Kelly has issued a declaration of disaster emergency at the end of March due to the potential for wildfires and severe storms across the state.

Jane Welch with the Kansas Adjutant General’s Department said the verbal declaration came from Governor Kelly Friday morning. The declaration will allow the state to field a quicker response in the event of wildfires.

“Weather conditions are such that a high risk exists for wildland fires,” Governor Kelly said. “I urge all Kansans to be alert and use extreme caution when using their outdoor grills and other open fires. It’s better to avoid these things, if possible. A single spark is enough to touch off a fire that could have devastating consequences.”

Welch said the majority of the state is currently in a red flag warning and a high wind advisory with gusts from 45 to 55 mph. The red flag warning means that critical fire weather conditions are either occurring now or will begin soon. The combination of strong winds, low relative humidity and warm temperatures can all play a part in extreme fire behavior. Any fires that develop will likely spread quickly and become difficult to control, according to Welch. Outdoor burning at this time is not recommended.

“In preparation for the critical fire weather, this declaration will allow us to preposition and respond with additional resources from across the state,” said Mark Neely, Fire Management Officer for Kansas Forest Service.

Welch said the Kansas Division of Emergency Management activated the State Emergency Operations Center in Topeka to an enhanced steady state to keep in contact with county emergency offices and monitor weather conditions. The National Weather Service (NWS) station of Topeka reported earlier in the week that strong winds and low relative humidity with an abundance of dry vegetation will cause extreme fire danger across Kansas.

This comes after several wildfires burned hundreds of acres in Riley County earlier in the month.