Red Cedar Proliferation Partially to Blame for Kansas Wildfires

Apr 18, 2016

A single red cedar and a second tree survived the first acre of a more than 370,000-acre fire that started near Freedom, Okla., on March 22, 2016.
Credit Olivia Morrison / Wichita Eagle

Last month saw the worst wildfire in Kansas history. The fires in Kansas can be partially blamed on a plant that was of little concern a half century ago. Fifty years ago red cedar trees in Kansas were counted in the tens of thousands. Now the number is closer to 100 million, reports Just in the last ten years the number of cedar trees in the state has jumped by thirty million. The cedars, sometimes called junipers, make ideal kindling for wildfires. And when you toss in recent high winds and drought conditions, you’ve got a deadly combination.

Larry Biles, director of the Kansas Forest Service, lamented the fact that Kansas is one of the only states not allowed to share firefighting resources with other states.

That’s a problem, because it’s estimated that the number of cedar trees in Oklahoma is four or five times greater than in Kansas.