SLADE, Ky. (LEX 18) — Drought now covers nearly two-thirds of the contiguous U.S., and in Kentucky, almost 40% of the state is considered to have a severe drought impact.
“I’ve been here for 18 years, and I don’t know if I’ve ever seen the Red River so low,” said Tim Eling, Public Affairs Officer for Daniel Boone National Forest.
At a fire briefing on Thursday, experts described the drought as the worst they’ve seen in twelve years.
“We've seen increased fire danger year after year after year, so I think it's time to accept that it's the norm,” said Brock Campbell, Zone Fire Management Officer with the Daniel Boone National Forest.
From local to state to federal lands, officials fear this fire season could escalate quickly. So far, the numbers reinforce their concern.
Since the start of the year, more than 59,000 wildfires have burned over 7 million acres across the country. Both numbers are well above the 10-year average, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.
According to Eling, 98% of Kentucky wildfires are caused by humans, meaning almost all of Kentucky’s fires can be prevented.
From the Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, Kevin Kelly mentioned the upcoming hunting season. He urged hunters to put out fires built on hunting trips. He also warned against driving through tall grass as heat from vehicles can spark wildfires.
Other guidance came from Kessley Baker, a Wildfire Mitigation Specialist with the Division of Forestry. Kentucky’s fire season runs through late December. During this time, residents should avoid burning within one hundred and fifty feet of woodland or brushland between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. She also recommended raking leaves out 30 feet from your home to create a barrier.
Above all, experts emphasized the importance of drowning campfires.
“Douse, stir, and feel,” said Samantha Evans, Park Naturalist with Natural Bridge State Park. By drowning the fire in water, stirring it into the ashes, and feeling for excess heat, you can guarantee your fire won’t spread.