Kentucky lumbermen worried about wildfires

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Posted at 7:52 PM, Mar 31, 2022

LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — Leaders in Kentucky’s logging and forestry industry are concerned about the rising threat wildfires pose in the state.

Bob Bauer, the executive director of the Kentucky Forest Industries Association, said he’s concerned about the lower staffing levels facing organizations that fight fires, specifically volunteer fire companies and the state’s division of forestry.

The division, he said, has seen its staffing levels cut in half over the past 15 years.

“The division of forestry has had a wide range of cutbacks... so there is concern if the fire season gets bad that you have enough there,” Bauer said.

Local volunteer fire departments, which are often critical in suppressing fires before they can grow into larger forest fires that require help from the state forest service to suppress, are facing a shortage of volunteers, Bauer said.

LEX18 reached out to the Kentucky Division of Forestry and received this response:

While the number of fulltime firefighters at the Kentucky Division of Forestry is not what it was 15 years ago, KDF is using technology and good management practices to ensure that Kentucky is protected in the event of wildfire outbreaks. The cabinet has upgraded its radio towers across the state as well as its mobile dispatch software. It has replaced all of its mobile radios so they can be tuned to the frequencies of local fire departments and strategically moves resources across the state in anticipation of fire activity.

As a member of the Southeastern Forest Fire Protection Compact, it provides and accepts mutual aid for forest fire prevention and control. And it has a reciprocal resource sharing arrangement with Daniel Boone National Forest.

The governor’s budget, as well as the current budget proposal, will increase state employee salaries which will certainly help recruitment and retention efforts of all departments.