Governor Ernie Fletcher’s Communication Office
Governor Fletcher announces increased enforcement effort on wild land arson fires
Multi-agency approach to stem threat to firefighters and economy
FRANKFORT, Ky. – Governor Ernie Fletcher today announced a new, multi-agency initiative to halt the escalation of wild land arson fires in the state.
Last month Division of Forestry (KDF) firefighters in Pike County narrowly escaped injury when an arsonist set a fire below an area in which they were working. The firefighters were able to secure themselves on an old logging road that acted as a firebreak. Kentucky State Police (KSP) are investigating the episode.
In other incidents, a fire vehicle has been set afire and equipment has been stolen from KDF trucks.
Governor Fletcher said increased enforcement is needed to protect firefighters as well as the economically important timber industry.
“Our forests are an economic engine for Kentucky, with more than 3,500 forest industries creating 30,000 jobs,” the Governor said. “We cannot tolerate criminal behavior that threatens firefighters and the economic livelihood of so many of our citizens and destroys our scenic environment.”
The Governor announced a joint effort by KDF, KSP, the Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (DFWR) and the Kentucky National Guard to provide a high-visibility enforcement presence in areas prone to arson fires.
Governor Fletcher said KSP will spearhead the effort, working closely with KDF personnel to target “hot spots” of repeated arson incidents. He said the National Guard will work under KSP direction to supplement the effort if necessary to protect firefighters. Fish and Wildlife officers will help respond as available to investigate arson incidents and will help keep a lookout for suspicious activities.
Governor Fletcher said nearly 49,000 acres have burned in the state in 2005, most caused by fires intentionally set.
Susan Bush, commissioner of the Department for Natural Resources (DNR), said she was “extremely pleased with this new initiative and its focus on eliminating arson-related wild land fires.”
“I’m looking forward to working with the KSP and Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. Together we can assure greater protection of our firefighters and pursue those who would seek to destroy one of Kentucky’s greatest resources, our forests,” Bush said.
KSP Commissioner Mark Miller said his force would partner with the other agencies “to strategically apply our combined resources in areas prone to arson fires.”
“This includes patrol, arson investigation, intelligence gathering and prevention activities. Many of our new troopers who will complete their training on December 20th will be assigned to eastern Kentucky to help in this effort,” Miller stated.
The DFWR also will focus attention on enforcement efforts. The department’s mission “is to protect and conserve the wildlife of the commonwealth,” Commissioner Jon Gassett said. “The nature of our Law Enforcement Division puts our officers in the same environment where many of these wildfires occur, and we have already increased our presence in the region. We are excited to partner with KSP, Division of Forestry and the Kentucky National Guard in a joint effort to reduce arson wildfires.”
Governor Fletcher also announced that the Environmental and Public Protection Cabinet (EPPC) will evaluate the feasibility of a new enforcement program within the KDF to investigate wild land arson fires. A similar program in Tennessee has proven successful. KDF is an agency of EPPC.
Governor Fletcher has also directed the EPPC to create a task force of local officials, forest industry and economic development representatives to propose additional suggestions for protecting Kentucky’s forests.