- Associated Press - Thursday, November 3, 2016

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Gov. Matt Bevin declared a state of emergency in Kentucky on Thursday as crews continued to fight dozens of wildfires across the eastern part of the state, including a 4-mile stretch of Pine Mountain in Harlan County.

The Kentucky Division of Forestry on Thursday reported 38 active fires that have burned 3,800 acres, Bevin’s office said in a statement. No injuries or evacuations have been reported, though some schools in Pike County were closed due to heavy smoke.

“My primary concern is safety. By declaring a state of emergency we are providing emergency resources to proactively respond to local needs,” Bevin said. “As dry conditions remain throughout Kentucky, we urge all citizens to use extreme caution during outdoor activities and refrain from outdoor burning.”

Three helicopters have been sent to affected areas to do air water drops to help with fire-suppression efforts.

Drought conditions have led to the worst fall fire season in the state in about a decade, said Division of Forestry spokeswoman Jennifer Turner. Fires are burning in several counties, many of which have issued bans on outdoor burning.

Some of the biggest blazes are in Harlan County.

“Pine Mountain and Black Mountain are both on fire and they’ve got miles of fire,” she said.

The steep, rugged terrain prevents firefighters from going in or using bulldozers to smother the flames and fire breaks have had limited success due to windy conditions.

“That’s why we ended up calling in help,” she said. “It’s beyond our span of control right now.”

She said crews on Wednesday fought 52 fires across eastern Kentucky.

“We had as many fires yesterday that we were battling as we have had combined the entire fire season from Oct. 1,” she said on Thursday.

Although the forecast called for rain by Thursday evening, National Weather Service meteorologist Kevin Sullivan said most of eastern Kentucky wouldn’t see more than a quarter-inch of rain.

“It’s not going to be enough to offset the drought conditions,” he said.

The area is already 3-4 inches below normal for rainfall and it would take a steady 1-2 inches of rain over a 12-hour period to provide some relief. However, there’s no rain in the forecast through the end of next week, he said.

That may lead Kentucky officials to request more help. Turner said if there’s no rain in the next week, Kentucky may have to request federal aid to help fight the blazes.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide