Forest fire season hits Perry County

Amelia Holliday Staff Reporter aholliday@civitasmedia.com

March 11, 2014

HAZARD—A nearly 50-acre forest fire threatened homes in the Christopher community of Hazard Monday evening as crews with the Hazard Fire Department and the Kentucky Forestry Division fought to control the flames.

Chief Forester Kristy Whitaker, with the Kentucky Division of Forestry in Perry County, said the fire was reported at around 4:30 p.m. at Maggard Court.

“We’ve went back up there today, we don’t have it completely controlled. I’d say we’re sitting at about 80 percent controlled,” Whitaker said of the fire Tuesday morning.

Whitaker said flames reached up to 30 feet high in some places, though no structures or people had been damaged.

“We usually don’t have forest fires until the later part of March, but this year we’ve started burning, we actually was having fires through December and January in between the snows,” Whitaker said.

This fire in Christopher was the thirteenth fire this year so far, she added.

“The snow has helped us some as far as keeping the ground moist it helps us keep the fires smaller,” Whitaker explained.

The issue, though, is that anything that would fuel a forest fire, such as logs or tree limbs, are drying out much faster than usual, she said.

“Usually after a rain or a snow it would take a couple of days for it to dry out and actually burn and now we’re looking at probably a 12 hour period. After a rain it’s dry again. That’s really what hurts us,” Whitaker said.

Whitaker explained that warmer weather and temperatures like what has been seen recently in the area have caused forest fire threat levels to be raised.

“The temperature for one is supposed to get in the 70s today, and then when you have low humidity and a little bit of wind added to it then that causes fires just to really go,” she said. “We have class days, we monitor the weather to see what class day the fire threat is, and today we’re a four our of five. Five’s the highest you can go.”

Whitaker said forest fire laws prohibit burning anything within 150 feet of a woodland area between the hours of 6 a.m. and 6 p.m., and anyone caught burning within that time would likely be fined.

“Everybody gets upset when there’s a home involved. Usually most of the time fires are out in the middle of nowhere,” she said.

Whitaker said homeowners need to be aware or how to keep their homes safe during forest fire season, which stretches from February to the end of April.

“There’s a program called Fire Wise … it kind of explains to homeowners how to clean around their homes to where if there was a fire close by it wouldn’t actually catch their house on fire,” Whitaker said. “There’s a lot of places around here though that don’t clean the leaves out around their house and things like that and they very well could lose their homes because of it.”

Amelia Holliday can be reached at 606-436-5771, or on Twitter @HazardHerald.