The Kentucky Division of Forestry is preparing for a busy wildfire season in the wake of summer droughts. There’s also a danger that debris from spring tornadoes has created more “ground fuel,” posing a greater threat to firefighters.
Despite recent rainfall, moderate drought conditions still exist in 50 counties in north central Kentucky. In the far western part of the state, 25 counties remain under severe to extreme drought conditions.
But Division of Forestry spokeswoman Lynn True says the leading cause of wildfires in the state is an avoidable one.
“Here in Kentucky, the reality is most of our wildfire is completely preventable the main cause of our wildfire in the state is arson,” she said. “That’s a felony and it carries a very stiff fine of $10,000 as a penalty and maybe up to five years of imprisonment.”
The Division of Forestry suggests the following guidelines to increase awareness and aid prevention of wildfires:
- Be aware of all outdoor burning restrictions, including forest fire hazard seasons, air quality and waste management regulations, restrictions imposed by local ordinances and county burn bans.
- Avoid burning anything during fire hazard seasons and during times of dry, windy conditions. Outdoor burning is illegal between the hours of 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. within 150 feet of any woodland or brushland during forest fire seasons.
- Extinguish all fires completely. Never leave a fire unattended and always extinguish fires if conditions become too windy.
- Allow hot ashes from woodstoves and fireplaces to cool before disposing outdoors.
- Extinguish smoking materials properly. Put out cigarettes, cigars, or pipes only in cleared areas free of vegetation or flammable material.
- Avoid parking cars, trucks, or recreational vehicles on dry vegetation. The exhaust system on a vehicle can reach a temperature of more than 1,000 degrees, which is hot enough to start a wildfire.
- Incorporate “Firewise” practices around homes and communities in forested areas. Firewise practices range from creating defensible space by removing leaves, vegetation and firewood to ensuring access for safety personnel and equipment in rural or isolated areas.
- And as always – Report suspicious acts of arson to the nearest Kentucky State Police post or call the Target Arson Hotline at 1-800-27-ARSON.
Fall fire season officially began Oct.1 and runs through Dec. 15. For more information about forest fire seasons, outdoor burning restrictions or fire prevention tips, contact the Kentucky Division of Forestry at 1-800-866-0555 or visit the division’s website.