Over 27,000 acres burned in eastern KY fires, dry conditions continue
BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (WBKO) - Since the first wildfire was spotted on Nov. 3, the Kentucky Division of Forestry has responded to 136 fires in eastern Kentucky that have damaged over 27,000 acres of land and taken the lives of two volunteer firefighters.
Firefighting units from Oregon, Washington, Arkansas, Idaho, Florida, Utah, Minnesota, Texas, and Florida are assisting Kentucky’s own units, though the Division of Forestry says that dry conditions this fall have created a perfect recipe for the damage to continue to spread.
Chris Wiedamann, public information officer for the Division of Forestry, says specifically in eastern Kentucky, there are low humidity levels and low fuel moisture content. He says those two components combined with the topography of eastern Kentucky cause the fire to move faster uphill.
“Add in any wind that might be helping the fire along going uphill, thankfully there isn’t much wind in the forecast, but in localized areas, there may be some gusty winds that aren’t going to help us out much,” Wiedamann said.
In some cases, wildfires begin due to natural causes and can be an essential part of forest management. Wiedamann stresses that with these fires, that is not the case. Human interference, debris burning, and arson are the leading causes of the existing fires and the damage that they have caused.
With that information in mind, many communities across the Commonwealth have implemented burn bans in an attempt to mitigate the fire risk. Locally, Barren, Green, and Metcalf Counties have recently put burn bans in place as a preemptive measure.
In Barren County, director of emergency management, Garland Gilliam, reported that Barren County has seen three field fires related to dry conditions and human error.
While the majority of the active fires have been contained, Wiedamann says that projected weather in the coming weeks will make conditions more dry and treacherous.
“This is a pretty dry time, and this isn’t a typical dry,” Wiedamann said. “This week, we’re projected to have relative humidity in eastern Kentucky in the teens and possibly below in some parts, which is very dry here in the east.”
Gilliam and Wiedamann both recommend that homeowners remove dry leaves and vegetation around the foundation of their homes and report any active fires to the Division of Forestry.
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