Do Kentuckians have to worry about wildfires?

Wildfires can be a pressing issue across the US, even here at home in the Bluegrass.
Published: Aug. 14, 2023 at 3:20 PM EDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - Recently, Americans watched the luscious landscape of vegetation in Maui shift to ash - as wildfires ravaged the island. While the state of Hawaii is over 4,000 miles away - Wildfires can be a pressing issue across the U.S., even at home in the Bluegrass.

Dr. Jeff Stringer, Chairman of UK Department of Forestry and Wildlife, says, “We have a lot of human cost wildfires that occur in Eastern Kentucky, not exclusively - but they tend to be more there.”

In the past 10 years, the Division of Forestry for the State of Kentucky has reported that over 10,000 wildfires have burned in the state - damaging and wounding around 300,000 acres of Kentucky’s forests.

Stringer says, “You have no control over it, right? So it can burn with enough intensity to wound trees, kill large trees, those kind of things, and have a lot of negative consequences to it.”

Kentucky has two fire seasons - one in the fall, peaking in October, and one in the early spring, from February 15 through April 30. It is in these periods of the year we see favorable conditions for wildfires to start - focusing on low humidity and high winds.

“If it gets a little droughty or if we have several days of high wind, you know - real warm fall days with high wind - that top layer of leaves can be ignitable,” Dr. Stringer warns.

While causes for wildfires can be natural, in Kentucky - the majority of wildfires are man-made. According to the Division of Forestry, the leading causes of wildfires in the state are either debris burning or arson. Kentucky’s current forest protection laws include stiff penalties for intentionally setting a fire on land owned by another, including up to a $10,000 fine and potential imprisonment for five years.

So, while we approach another wildfire season here in the Bluegrass, it is important to remember proper procedures in order to best protect our forests.

For Maui, there is some hope in the ashes, according to Stringer-

”Mother nature has a way of reclaiming herself, you know? You’ve still got roots in the ground and all those kinds of things - they will sprout back. The forest will take care of itself.”