21 Kentucky firefighters helping fight wildfires in Alaska

FAIRBANKS, Ak. (WTVQ) – Twenty-one Kentucky Division of Forestry firefighters are in Alaska helping fight wildfires that have scorched an area the size of Fort Worth, Texas.  For the firefighters, it’s an exciting time as they put their training and firefighting skills to the test.  For the families and loved ones left behind in Kentucky, it’s an anxious time.

"A friend asked me if my husband was more nervous or excited. I could easily tell her he’s more excited. But for myself, I’m more on the nervous side of that. It’s definitely a dangerous job," says Crystal Brothers, whose husband Chad is one of the firefighters who made the trip.   

Brothers says her husband will be gone nearly three weeks and that her routine will change. "I woke up this morning and I just thought, who is going to take out the trash?  I’m really spoiled. He always takes out the trash and mows the yard," laughed Brothers.

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The Kentucky Division of Forestry says there are an estimated 85 wildfires burning in Alaska, where nearly 30-homes have been burned.  Some 3,000 firefighters from 48 states and Canada have answered Alaska’s call for help. 

Twenty year Kentucky Forestry veteran Floyd Willis says this time of year wildfires in the west are common in the bone dry west.  He says Kentucky’s dry season is in spring and fall, while western states experience it in the summer. 

Willis says he has been to many states to fight wildfires and that right now, he’s thinking of his forestry brothers during this time. "It’s an opportunity for more experience fighting fire," says Willis.

As for the families of those firefighters, they are hoping for safe and speedy return. "It is a dangerous thing. It’s worrisome. I trust the Lord in his training and hope everything will be okay," says Brothers.


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Tom Kenny joined ABC 36 News in June of 2001 as a General Assignment Reporter. A native of Peoria, Illinois, he graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communications from Western Illinois University. He currently anchors ABC 36 News at 5pm, 6pm and 11pm. Tom has more than three decades of experience in broadcast journalism. He is the only broadcast journalist in Lexington television history to be honored with a national Edward R. Murrow Award. Tom was recognized for reporting on a story that gave a rare glimpse inside the secretive world of the Federal Witness Protection Program. He has won an Emmy Award for anchoring and another for investigative reporting, exposing the deceit and potential danger of online diploma mills. Tom has ten other Emmy nominations to his credit for investigative and feature reporting. He has won Associated Press Awards for reporting and anchoring. He has won two Addy Awards for excellence in promotional writing. Tom was the first broadcast journalist in Lexington TV history to be awarded the Silver Circle Award by the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. It is one of the highest honors given by NATAS. It recognizes television professionals who have performed distinguished service within the television industry for 25-years or more. Tom was honored for more than his longevity, he was recognized for making an enduring contribution to the vitality of the television industry and for setting high standards of achievement. He was also recognized for giving back to the community as a mentor, educator and volunteer. Tom also has network broadcast experience in radio and television having worked as a sports reporter for ESPN, Sportschannel, NBC Sports and the Breeders’ Cup. He was also the studio host and halftime producer for CBS Radio Sports’ College Football Game of the Week and covered the NFL for One-On-One Radio Sports. Prior to joining WTVQ-TV, Tom was Vice-President of the Houston Astros Minor League baseball team in Lexington. He was part of the original management team that brought professional baseball back to the Bluegrass after a nearly 50-year absence. Tom has lived in Lexington since 1984. In that time, he has been heavily involved with dozens of charity and civic groups, with a special emphasis on helping Veterans. He can be reached at tkenny@wtvq.com. You can also follow Tom on Facebook www.facebook.com/TomKennyABC and Twitter @TomKennyNews. Just click on the links at the top of the page.