Spring is here and along with it has come not only the new green leaves on trees and the sounds of peepers filling the evening, but also the intense smell of wood smoke as forest fire season has hit the region — and hit it hard.
Kristy Ritchie, a chief forester with the Kentucky Division of Forestry’s Kentucky River District, said since the beginning of the spring forest fire season the division has seen 36 fires in Perry County; 15 of those fires have been reported just since April 1 totaling 2,002 acres burned so far in the county just since that date.
“Our spring season starts Feb. 15 and runs through April 30, and just in the past couple of weeks we’ve started really getting dry. We’ve not had much rain and it’s kicking in full force,” Ritchie said.
Ritchie said the division, along with local fire departments, have been battling fires this week in Rowdy, Fourseam, and Grapevine, where one of the biggest fires they’ve seen this season started near a community behind Fugate’s Entertainment. She said that fire was reported around 12:30 p.m. on Wednesday and had since spread across the mountain.
“We’ve not got that one contained because last night (Wednesday night) the fire burnt so large that it burned 3-phase power poles down, so there was electric lines laid for a good two miles on the whole stretch of road that you take to get to the fire,” she said. “We had to wait for the power company to get down there, and we’re still actually waiting for them to get one end of it took care of before we can go back in there.”
The majority of the fires the division deals with are arson, Ritchie said, though they’re still not sure right now exactly what the cause of this fire is.
“It could be anything, the downed power lines might have started it, but I’d probably tend probably more towards arson. I’d say 90 percent of our fires are arson,” she added.
To fight the fires, Ritchie said the division uses things like fire rakes and leaf blowers to clear away brush and dried leaves to try to contain the fire and let it die on its own.
“Where the fuel’s removed, it can’t cross what’s called that containment line,” she explained.
Ritchie said no one has had to evacuate their homes because of the proximity of any fires yet, and there is only one piece of advice she can give to those Perry Countians who are trying to make it through the season fire-free.
“If everybody would just not burn anything we’d be OK!”