Environmental and Public Protection Cabinet
Severe wildfire conditions continue
Frankfort, Ky. (Oct. 9, 2007) — Spotty rain showers in some parts of Kentucky have not reduced the severe risk of wildfire across the state, according to Teresa J. Hill, secretary of the Environmental and Public Protection Cabinet (EPPC) and Leah MacSwords, director of the Kentucky Division of Forestry (KDF).
Hill also urged Kentucky residents to abide by the statewide outdoor burning ban issued by Governor Ernie Fletcher last week.
The extreme drought has created extraordinarily hazardous wildfire conditions. In the last month, 227 fires have burned more than 9,591 acres. Most of the fires are the result of arson.
“Citizens can help combat wildfires by providing information about fires in their area to the KDF or local and state law enforcement agencies,” Governor Fletcher said. “We are asking the public to be our eyes and ears and to report any information about suspicious fires in your area by calling the Target Arson Hotline number at 1-800-27-ARSON.”
Wildfire prevention and education is now being extended into classrooms across Kentucky, thanks to a teacher resource kit developed by the Kentucky Environmental Education Council (KEEC) and the Environmental Quality Commission (EQC) in partnership with the KDF.
The kits educate students about the many negative impacts of fire, including the danger to firefighters and citizens and the damage to Kentucky’s hardwood lumber industry.
“Kentucky is one of the top five states in the nation in hardwood lumber production, with more than 37,000 people employed in primary and secondary wood product industries,” Secretary Hill noted. “Wildland fires can cost Kentucky badly needed employment opportunities.”
In 2005, Governor Fletcher created the Wildland Arson Task Force in an effort to find both short-term and long-term solutions to the wildland arson problem in Kentucky. The task force recommended a two-fold approach: law enforcement and public awareness and education.
The teacher kits are a key element in the awareness and education effort.
“Wildfires affect every Kentuckian, and these kits will help us educate Kentucky’s youth about the importance of wildfire prevention,” said Leah MacSwords. “Wildfires every spring and fall do not have to be a fact of life in Kentucky."
“With the public’s help, we can significantly reduce the number of wildfires and sustain healthy and productive forests statewide,” she said.
Jane Wilson Eller, executive director of the KEEC, described the kits as “the essence of environmental education. They teach kids and their families to make knowledgeable, informed and very relevant decisions about how their behaviors affect the environment and how they in turn are affected.”
EQC Chairman Scott Smith said the kits will help combat Kentucky’s pervasive arson problem.
“Wildland arsonists are nothing more than terrorists in our midst,” he said. “They purposely destroy our forests and endanger the good people who bravely fight these fires."
“I’m proud of the contribution that the Environmental Quality Commission has made to combat this situation,” Smith said. “I hope that these kits will give teachers an effective tool with which to educate the children of the commonwealth about causes and prevention of forest fires.”
A limited number of fire prevention education kits are now available at conservation district offices in 25 eastern Kentucky counties.
For more information about the kits visit the KEEC Web site at http://keec.ky.gov/. For a list of counties where kits are available visit the KDF Web site at http://www.forestry.ky.gov/news/.