WOLFE COUNTY, Ky. (LEX 18) — The Forest Service reports that more than 99% of forest fires in Kentucky are human-caused.
"It's not arson," lead backcountry ranger at the Red River Gorge, Bradley Davis, said. "It's escaped campfires typically."
With campfires identified as the main culprit, Davis demonstrated how to properly build one.
He said it must have at least 15 feet of space and very little debris around it. If too many dry leaves are close by, it can spell disaster.
"You get one little spark on those leaves and boom," he said. "Next thing you know, you've got a fire."
He also said to consider not building a campfire if it's too windy. And never leave a campfire unattended.
"People will walk away from a hotbed of coals and then you know maybe later on in the day that wind pops up and it stirs it back up a little bit, and the next thing you know an ember flies out and catches in the nearby leaves and there you go," he explained.
When visitors are ready to put a fire out, Davis said you need to douse the fire in water, stir it up with a large stick, for example, and repeat the process until you don't feel any more heat coming off the logs.
If a mistake is made and a fire does spread, the effects can be devastating.
"For one thing they cost a lot of money to put out," Davis said. "And they can damage recreation facilities. It usually means we have to close down the area for a while."
Any park visitors who see abandoned or uncontrolled campfires are asked to report it to local law enforcement.