Environmental and Public Protection Cabinet
Wildland Arson Task Force emphasizes education, enforcement
FRANKFORT, Ky. (Feb. 2, 2007) - Arson fires in Kentucky’s forests can be reduced through aggressive law enforcement and prosecution combined with increased public awareness and education, the Wildland Arson Task Force said in its final report, which it issued today.
The task force, formed by Governor Ernie Fletcher in December 2005, has presented the report and recommendations to Governor Fletcher. It is advocating a two-pronged approach: prevent fires by making the public more aware of the problem, and deter potential arsonists by identifying and punishing those who set wildland fires.
Wildland fires impose a significant economic burden on Kentucky’s $8 billion-a-year forest products industry. More than half those fires are the result of arson. Over the last 10 years, four firefighters and three citizens have died in wildland fires in the commonwealth. More than $1 million worth of homes and other structures have been destroyed.
In the last six years, wildland fires have burned more than 411,400 acres of forest. Local, state and federal governments have spent more than $20 million fighting those fires.
Task force participants included the Kentucky Division of Forestry, Kentucky State Police, Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, the U.S. Forest Service, Kentucky Farm Bureau, officials from Owsley, Bell, Floyd and Rowan counties, Weyerhauser Co., Representative Keith Hall, private landowners and consultants. Susan C. Bush, Commissioner of the Department for Natural Resources, served as the task force chair.
The task force’s final report can be found on the Division of Forestry’s Web site at <http://www.forestry.ky.gov/news/>.