By: Lisa Bicknell
Barbara and Bev Hall of Pitts Rd. say they slept very little on Monday night, with a wildfire spreading about a half mile from their home and moving in their direction.
So they took turns sleeping and keeping watch over their place.
By midday Tuesday, the wildfire had swept past them and it appeared that the danger to their property had passed, but Bev said that he’d been told that residents on the ridge above had been told to evacuate.
Members of the forestry department had been called out to help battle the wildfire and bulldozers were brought in to create buffer zones. Helicopters circled the Hall’s farm as they dumped water from above.
The Halls, both bus drivers, had to move their school bus from its usual parking place beside the road to a nearby field.
The wildfire had burned an estimated 300-500 acres of land by Tuesday morning in the Pitts and Betsey Ridge areas, resulting in a thick blanket of smoke all over Estill County.
Crews were focused on protecting property, and the United States Forestry Department had provided manpower and equipment to help try and contain the fire, according to a statement from EMS/CSEPP. People were being asked to avoid the area where the wildfires were burning so crews could do their job. They were also reminded not to do any outdoor burning because of extremely dry conditions.
A press release from the forest service said that Eastern Kentucky is experiencing some of the driest conditions in over a decade.
Kessley Baker, a Wildfire Mitigation Specialist with the Kentucky Division of Forestry, reiterated the importance of following statewide and county burn bans during wildfire hazard season. From October 1 through December 15, residents should avoid burning between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. or within one hundred and fifty feet of woodland or brushland. She also recommended raking leaves and other yard debris out 30 feet from any buildings to minimize the risk of fire spreading to your home.
“Leaves and other dead plant debris are easy fuel for wildfires and eastern Kentucky is full of those right now. Even with a bit of rain or fog in the morning, our warm, breezy days dry those smaller fuels out quickly and can give you a false sense of security when setting up a campfire or burning at home,” said Tim Eling, Daniel Boone National Forest Public Affairs Officer. “It’s important that both our Forest visitors and residents of our neighboring communities take precautions to ensure that fires, whether from campfires or debris burning, are completely out before leaving them unattended.”
In addition to making sure that all campfires are dead out, Kevin Kelly, Chief Communications Officer for the KY Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, urged hunters to be vigilant for potential fire starts when operating ATVs on dry grass and visiting back country areas where wildfires could spread quickly.
“98% of wildfires in Kentucky are human-caused – whether that’s from a debris fire that escaped, a campfire that wasn’t fully extinguished or even a hot engine idling in tall grass,” said Eling. “That means that almost all wildfires in Kentucky can be prevented if we all practice fire wise behaviors.”