HAZARD — Officials with the Kentucky Division for Air Quality hosted a seminar this week concerning one of the major ongoing issues affecting air quality in Kentucky. Open burning, or trash burning, can send off deadly fumes and toxins that can pollute the air for miles around the fire.
Roberta Burnes is an educational specialist with the Department for Environmental Protection, and led a presentation Thursday for several Hazard firefighters at the fire training center in Gorman Hollow. The presentation discussed the dangers of burning illegal items and the importance of burning safely.
As we head into fire hazard season, there is not a burn ban in place. However, the chances of forest fires is raised due to the leaves being shed from the trees. If burning legally, Burnes said it is important to control the burn to avoid sparks jumping into areas and causing the fire to grow.
Last year, 16 percent of the forest fires in Perry County were caused by illegal burning or trash burning. This accounted for 117 acres being burning in the county.
It is illegal to burn any trash except untreated paper and cardboard. This means treated cardboard like cereal boxes are considered illegal since they contain chemicals that release toxic gases when burned. Other illegal items that are often found being burned are tires, grass clippings, treated lumber, old barns, and even old trailers.
Legal items include clean wood in campfires, leaves, bonfires, coal, or charcoal in grills. However, all of these items, including cooking on a grill, become illegal during a burn ban.
When people fail to be in compliance of these laws they can be fined up to $25,000. This money is then used for further education and billboards across the state. These fines are often the result of calls reporting illegal burning.
According to Burnes, locally officials receive many calls reporting illegal fires from the Bonnyman area near Hazard. The firefighters said that they have seen an increase in dumpster fires in Hazard, and they are often called to uncontrolled trash fires.
The city has a permanent burn in place, meaning the only fires allowed in the city are in small fire pits, grills, and fireplaces. No open burning of any kind is allowed.
For more information about legal and illegal burning, or to report illegal burning, you can call 1-888-BURN-LAW or email burnlaw@KY.gov.