As wildfires burn, officials urge caution

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Posted at 6:53 AM, Nov 11, 2022
and last updated 2022-11-11 07:03:59-05

(LEX 18) — As unseasonably warm and dry weather continues, so do Kentucky's wildfires. A new fire broke out Thursday evening in Rowan County, along US 60.

Firefighters and a helicopter making water drops got that one knocked down quickly. Forestry officials say people need to be really careful about any sparks they might trigger.

Governor Andy Beshear said Thursday the Commonwealth has 52 fires burning in 28 counties, covering 6,000 acres.

"We can prevent a lot of the fires that happen here in Kentucky, even though it's dry and conditions are ripe for a fire to spread, if we don't have that spark or that initial start, then we don't have the concern of wildfires," said Steve Kull, an environmental scientist at the Kentucky Division of Forestry. "99+% of the fires in Kentucky are caused by some activity humans, it could be accidental, having a debris fire behind your house and it gets away, winds pick up, everything to our major cause, which is unfortunately arsonists - people deliberately setting the woods on fire."

According to the Division of Forestry, 521 of Kentucky's 1,101 wildfires this year were arson. Fires started by arsonists, Kull says, can be particularly devastating.

"A lot of times, arsonists, just by nature, are somewhat secluded or will be a little more sneaky, so they'll set fires in isolated areas and a lot of times, those will be bigger and harder to put out," he said.

There are other causes that might not be as obvious—farm equipment creating a spark or chains attached to a trailer dragging along the pavement—sending sparks into brush or leaves along the road.

Even if a fire does start, there are ways to try to protect your home. If you live near the woods, creating defensible space between your house and the fire by clearing potential fuel like dead trees and dried up leaves on the ground.

"Things you need to look at to make sure that, if there is a fire in your area, that it doesn't spread to your home and burn it," Kull said.

The fall wildfire season continues through December 15.