Extreme Drought, Heat Sparking Forest Fires

By: Jeff Allen Email
By: Jeff Allen Email

The extreme drought and heat turn a normally harmless pile of wood into a huge fire. Officials say the weather conditions actually caused the woodpile to catch fire by itself.

It started in northern Laurel County and the smoke is creating a haze over the surrounding area.

Fire officials say it's been so hot and so dry for so long, they believe this fire started when wood chips like these actually spontaneously combusted and now they're trying to figure out how to put the fire out.

East Burnstadt firefighters have already dumped over thirty thousand gallons of water on this inferno since it started Wednesday night but it shows no signs of dying down.

"This is one of the worst types of fires to extinguish," said Brian Reams with Laurel County Emergency Management.

Difficult because the flames are coming from deep inside the ground.

"You get this sawdust spontaneously combusts on the bottom just like a volcano, burns from the bottom up," Reams said.

Firefighters say the only thing that will put the fire out is to either dig it out and then drench the area or smother it with dirt. Meanwhile, firefighters dug a line around the fire to protect nearby homes, some comfort to Patrick Dougherty who lives nearby.

"Main thing is I'm hoping we get some rain, cool everything off, make stuff like this easier to control," Dougherty said.

Firefighters say right now they're trying to figure out the best way to extinguish this fire. They say it could be days before they're able to put it out.

Forestry officials say fires are burning tonight in other parts of our region. Officials say they have crews at fires in Floyd, Pike and Johnson Counties. There was also a small fire in Perry County this afternoon. Officials say no homes are in danger and all but one of those fires are under control.

Several more Eastern Kentucky counties issuing burning bans today. Perry, Harlan, Letcher, Pike, Whitley, Rockcastle and Laurel Counties are now under burning bans. All outside burning is prohibited in these counties until further notice because of the dry, hot weather.

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