FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – In the wake of numerous wildland fires burning around the state, Governor Matt Bevin has declared a statewide emergency.
“My primary concern is safety,” says Governor Bevin, in a release. “By declaring a state emergency we are providing emergency resources to proactively respond to local needs. As dry conditions remain throughout Kentucky, we urge all citizens to use extreme caution during outdoor activities and refrain from outdoor burning.”
Kentucky Division of Forestry reports 38 active fires through Kentucky that have burned 3,800 acres. Harlan County alone reports five fires and has requested state assistance, to include air support for fire suppressant.
Department for Natural Resources Commissioner Allen Luttrell said employees with the divisions of Mine Safety and Mine Reclamation are working with the Division of Forestry to aid in the fire suppression effort.
“We are moving fire crews and strategically deploying department employees to bring every resource to bear on these fires,” Commissioner Luttrell said. “We ask the publics help by observing any local burning bans.”
Hours after Governor Bevin issued the statewide emergency, Daniel Boone National Forest implemented a fire restriction on national forest lands.
The order prohibits any open fire outside of developed recreation areas that are part of the national forest. In campgrounds and picnic areas, campfires are permitted only in existing metal fire rings and pedestal grills installed by the Forest Service.
U.S. Forest Service regulations require that any campfire be attended at all times, even those in developed recreation areas where fire rings occur.
For a list of recreation areas where campfires are permitted in existing metal fire rings or pedestal grills, visitors can call the ranger district office where they plan to visit. District office phone numbers can be found at www.fs.usda.gov/dbnf.
Anyone in violation of the Forest Supervisor’s fire restriction order will be fined and may be required to appear in federal court. In addition to fines, any individual or group responsible for causing a wildfire may be held liable for fire suppression costs.
There are currently 18 counties with outdoor burn bans in effect: Jackson, Barren, Clay, Fleming, Leslie, Knott, Montgomery, Pike, Perry, Montoe, McCreary, Whitley, Laurel, Harlan, Breathitt, Floyd, Rockcastle, and Owsley.
At this time there have been no reports of injuries, evacuations or house fires associated with the wildland fires.
The Kentucky National Guard is responding to a request from Emergency Management for support in battling wildfires burning in the state.
The Kentucky Guard is bringing two UH-60M Blackhawks and one LUH-72 Dakota out of the Army Aviation Support Facility to assist in controlling the fires.
The Blackhawks will carry “Bambi Buckets,” 600-gallon water buckets, to help suppress and combat fires.
The Lakota will give fires a mid-air command and control center.
Aircrews are working with the Division of Forestry, and say they will assist until the fires are out.