National Forest Service Concerned About Wildfires Starting in Central Kentucky

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RED RIVER GORGE (WTVQ)-Dangerous forest fires continue to burn in eastern and southern Kentucky with more counties and parks choosing to enforce burn bans. Forest officials in Red River Gorge say they are worried we could see wildfires in this part of the state.  Even with the bit of rain we had Thursday, leaves are still crisp and ready to burn so forest officials say they are relying on you to prevent fire.

To the well trained ear, the leaves in Red River Gorge are crunchier than the typical fall vegetation.

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“You can see how hard and compact that soil is,” Melissa Yunas said, patting the ground.

She is here all the way from Florida. She helped California with its wild fires. Now, she is trying to do the same in Kentucky. She is walking around with gorge manager Tim Eling to get word out about the burn ban they hope will prevent wildfire. Right now, campers in the gorge can only make fires in the locations where the staff has  installed grills or metal rings.

“One little wildfire could destroy homes. One little wildfire could easily hurt a firefighter or trap some campers inside here,” Yunas said.

The forest service says even a fire inside a rock circle is unacceptable because leaves are so close by.

“Really easy for the fire to escape,” Eling said.

Campers are allowed to use stoves.

“I’m okay with it honestly. I’d much rather have a fun time and come back next weekend than have the trail closed for a year because it’s burnt,” Denver Little, a camper, said.

There are now burn bans in more than 30 counties according to the state. The division of forestry has gotten reports of 49 fires burning over 6,000 acres.  The Kentucky National Guard is flying eight helicopters to help drop water over the fires to our east. It is something Red River Gorge visitors say they will do their best to prevent here.

“There’s not very many places left where you can just camp and backpack without worrying about it and, to me, I’d hate to be the guy who ruins that,” Jamie Reising, a camper from Ohio, said.

The Red Cross is now offering help too to people in the areas fighting wildfires. The group is setting up five shelters in Harlan, Knox, and Letcher counties.

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Veronica Jean Seltzer joins ABC 36 as Anchor/Reporter. On most weekdays, you will see her reporting the news. VJ hails from a small horse farm outside New York City and most recently comes from South Bend, Indiana where she reported for the CBS and Fox affiliates. VJ holds a Master of Science in Journalism degree from Columbia University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from Tufts University. Her passion for journalism runs deep. It began as she studied graffiti as an ancient form of communication in Athens, Greece. While a student journalist in Morocco, she learned her most important journalistic lesson: good stories are about people. VJ loves life in and around Lexington. She feels most at home among horses and a diverse community of fascinating people. She enjoys reporting during the week and on the weekend she strives to bring her neighbors the news that matters most to them. VJ enjoys going to neighborhood events, exploring, horseback riding, skiing, sailing, and good movies. Look for her out and about in the community! VJ invites you to reach out to her with story ideas or just to say hello! Find her on Facebook at Veronica Jean Seltzer ABC 36, tweet her @VJS_ABC36, or email her at VSeltzer@wtvq.com. She looks forward to hearing from you!