Kentucky Division of Forestry
Kentuckians Reminded of Dangers of Wilfire - Recent Fatalites Related to Burning Debris

Press Release Date:  Friday, March 20, 2009  
Contact Information:  Lynn Brammer
Kentucky Division of Forestry

Kentuckians Reminded About Dangers of Wildfire

Recent Fatalities Related to Burning Debris 

            FRANKFORT, KY (March 20, 2009) – Earlier this week, two fatalities resulting from escaped debris fires were reported in western Kentucky, thus reminding us about the dangers of wildfires and the importance of safe burning practices. 

            Wildfires occur throughout the year in our state; however, a significant number happen in March and April due to debris burning.  In the spring, residents rake yards, clear gardens and collect limbs and branches that have accumulated from winter storms.  Unfortunately, many people do not realize the dangers of outdoor burning during this time of year and they elect to burn their yard waste.  These debris fires often spread out of control and lead to wildfires that have the potential to consume hundreds of acres, destroy property and threaten lives.   

            “In early spring, most vegetation is dead, brown and highly combustible.  There is also very little green vegetation to serve as a barrier for spreading wildfire,” said Leah MacSwords, director of the Division of Forestry.  “We try to remind people of these conditions and we strongly discourage them from conducting any type of outdoor burning.”

              Because most wildfires are caused by human activities, the number of wildfires and losses can be reduced if residents take more precautions.  To reduce the risk of wildfire, the division recommends the following guidelines for safe debris burning:   

·         Clear a safe zone that is wide enough to prevent the escape of fire.

·         Keep a supply of water and a rake or shovel readily accessible.

·         Stay with your fire until it is completely out and never leave a fire unattended.

·         Burn only when the wind is calm and the humidity level is high.

·         Extinguish fire completely if conditions become windy.

·         Keep brush piles small to allow quick control of the fire if necessary.

·         Locate brush piles an adequate distance from structures and utilities.

·         Obey all outdoor burning laws including forest fire laws, air pollution and open burning regulations, and local ordinances.  

·         Understand that you are liable if your fire escapes.

            In addition to following safe burning practices, the Kentucky Division of Forestry would like to remind all citizens that Kentucky law designates Feb. 15 through April 30 as spring forest fire hazard season.  During this time, it is illegal to burn anything within 150 feet of any woodland or brush land between the daylight hours of 6 a.m. and 6 p.m.  The law is intended to prevent forest fires by allowing outdoor burning only during the time when conditions are less likely to cause a wildfire to spread.   Citizens should also contact their local fire department to find out about burning restrictions and ordinances in their area.  For more information about fire hazard seasons, outdoor burning laws and safe burning practices, contact the Kentucky Division of Forestry at 1-800-866-0555 or visit the division’s Web site at  Information regarding open burning regulations, allowable materials to burn, and legal disposal methods can be obtained by contacting the Division for Air Quality at 1-888-BURN-LAW and the Division of Waste Management at 1-888-NO-DUMPS.