HAZARD — Forest fires have raged in Southeastern Kentucky over the past couple of weeks, causing vast damage to wildlife and the landscape. On Nov. 15, the Kentucky Division of Forestry released the following information, pertaining to the fires.
Seventy three counties in Kentucky currently have complete burn bans. An updated map of all counties with bans is attached. If you live in a county with a burn ban, all open outdoor burning is illegal. If you see anybody burning illegally, call 911. If you do not live in a county with a burn ban, our fall forest fire hazard statutes still apply. Burning between 6:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. within 150 feet of a woodland is illegal. Arrests have been made in McCreary County, Harlan County and Letcher County on Nov. 8 and Nov. 9 for violations of the burn bans and for arson.
There are 27 uncontrolled fires as of Nov. 15 in our Southeast Region. There are approximately 25,659 acres of uncontrolled fires in the southeast region. In the Southeast region, 6 fires were contained on Nov. 14. There were 7 new fires in the region on Nov. 13. The largest fire is the Nolansburg Fire in Harlan County, 7,400 acres.
On Nov. 15, humidity levels are expected to be in the 37-47 percent range, which is slightly higher than yesterday. This is a critically dry humidity level. Wednesday’s humidity level is forecasted to be even higher 40-50 percent, and then humidity levels will drop starting on Thursday. Due to a long drying period, despite upticks in humidity levels, fuels remain critically dry. These slight increases in humidity do not relieve the dryness of large fuels such as branches and logs. Winds will be 5-8 miles per hour from the southwest. Because of low winds, smoke will remain blanketed in areas.
Southeast Kentucky remains in a severe drought, while much of the rest of the state is in a moderate drought. Computer models indicate a potential for a cold front to move in later this week, which may bring a potential for moisture. This front is expected to bring shifting winds and higher winds in the sustained 10-20 miles per hour range with gusts to 30 miles per hour. If the anticipated winds occur, it will make firefighting conditions more dangerous.
There are a total of 4 Blackhawk helicopters dropping water on fires today with two additional Lakota helicopter that are being used to spot. These resources are from the National Guard. On Monday, the helicopters dropped water Harlan, Bell and Letcher counties.
The Department of Mine Safety has 50 personnel assisting the region with logistical support. A 20 person crew from the Kentucky Fire Commission will have their last day on assignment today. They will be replaced tomorrow with another 20 person crew. They are assisting with firefighting operations, in particular with structure protection. The fire commission is comprised of a mix of volunteer and full time fire departments that are working three day assignments.
A crew of 17 personnel from the Division of Abandoned Mine Lands has been assisting with monitoring fires, and are being led by a qualified crew boss. On Monday, a crew of 20 Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources personnel arrived to assist. They are trainined and will be split into two 10 person crews. There are approximately a total of 400 personnel assisting with operations, including fulltime and seasonal KDF employees, Mine Safety and Fire Commission Personnel.
Sam Neace can be reached at 606-629-3243 or on Twitter @HazardHerald.