FRANKFORT, Ky. (KT) - Fears of an active fire season are leading state officials to urge caution as the fall wildfire hazard season in Kentucky begins Thursday, bringing outdoor burning restrictions to the state.
“We have predictions of a worse than average fire season this year and I’m especially concerned with Kentuckians’ health during this COVID-19 pandemic,” said Gov. Andy Beshear. “I urge every Kentuckian to be vigilant when outdoors and abide by burning restrictions. My heart goes out to our brothers and sisters on the west coast who are already facing these deadly fires, and I’m grateful to the courageous Kentuckians who have traveled across the country to aid the disaster response.”
The state’s outdoor burning law prohibits burning between the hours of 6 a.m. and 6 p.m., local time, if the fire is within 150 feet of any woodland, brushland or fields containing dry grass or other flammable materials. These restrictions are in effect every fall (Oct. 1 – Dec. 15) and spring (Feb. 15 - April 30) to help prevent wildfires.
“Many parts of the country are experiencing a devastating fire season,” said Brandon Howard, director of the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet’s Division of Forestry, which has provided labor and equipment to support wildfire suppression efforts in other states this summer. “We are monitoring our wildfire situation at home and will bring our crews home at the appropriate time.”
Energy and Environment Cabinet Secretary Rebecca Goodman said that while it has been several years since the state had an active season, it’s not surprising based on historical patterns. “We will be ready for whatever this season brings, but we need everyone to be mindful,” she stated.
So far this year, 278 wildland fires have burned more than 3,700 acres in Kentucky. Though not as active as 2019, conditions can easily turn dry, making wildfires more likely.
The 2020 wildfire season could be negatively impacted by the current pandemic. “COVID-19 has encouraged more outdoor activity,” said Howard. “Hunting season will be in full swing, fall camping is always popular and people are visiting our state and national parks more now than ever. We just encourage vigilance and care while you’re enjoying Kentucky’s natural areas.”
Statistics from the cabinet indicate 99 percent of all wildfires in Kentucky are caused by people. Second only to arson, uncontrolled debris burning is a leading cause of wildfires. If a fire escapes from the burning of debris, immediately contact the nearest division of forestry field office or the local fire department.
Contact the local fire department or county judge-executive’s office for questions regarding local burn bans. Residents should call the Division for Air Quality at 1-888-BURN-LAW to learn about other specific regulations before burning anything.
To report a suspected arson-related wildfire, call the Target Arson hotline at 1-800-27-ARSON.