In Oct. 2-8 IssueBy Derek AaronTimes Journal Reporter
A burn ban was put into effect Monday afternoon by Judge-Executive Mickey Garner, ordering that all outdoor burning, even in burn barrels, be prohibited in Russell County until further notice.
Garner signed the emergency order late Monday afternoon, putting the order into effect after Jamestown Fire Chief Tony Wright recommended the ban after responding to a grass fire.
The ban is the result of extremely dry conditions and the possibility of forest fires, according to H.M. Bottom, Russell County's emergency management director.
The Lake Cumberland area has received very little rainfall through the summer months and local forecasters have said that as we go through the month of October, that same trend will continue.
The countywide burn ban is in effect 24 hours a day and remains in effect until further notice, according to Bottom. He said that anyone burning outdoors during this period would be subject to a hefty fine.
Despite a shower late Monday night, it seems like forever since a good rain has fallen in these parts, leaving the area in a mild drought, according to several state drought indicators.
Russell County's corn and soybean farmers have also been hit especially hard by the dry conditions as yields have been below normal as the rainfall deficit since June has reached about 7 inches below normal, according to state statistics.
The lawns and fields around the area are brown in one of the driest summers in recent memory, and just last week a wildfire burnt nearly a dozen acres of forest in the Parksridge community of eastern Russell County.
The fire began in a field and spread rapidly to a nearby wooded area that was difficult for firefighters to reach, according to fire officials.
Nearly 30 firefighters from the Eli, Russell Springs and Jamestown Volunteer Fire Departments as well as the Kentucky Division of Forestry fought the blaze for nearly three hours before it was finally subdued.
Wednesday, Oct. 1, was the beginning of the official Fall forest fire hazard season in Kentucky, according to Bottom.
Bottom said the area has been lucky thus far concerning fires, saying that for the conditions we've seen, there hasn't been an outbreak of uncontrollable fires.
During the season, which lasts until Dec. 15, statewide outdoor burning is illegal within 150 feet of the woods or a structure between the daylight hours of 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. Russell County's current ban disallows any type of outdoor burning 24 hours a day, but if the current county ban happens to be lifted in the coming weeks, citizens would still have to comply with state regulation on the issue as forestry officials say that now is not a good time to do any burning.
"There is growing concern about the potential for fires this fall," said Leah MacSwords, director of the Division of Forestry. "The dry weather and low humidity levels have increased the number of forest fires for this time of year."
The increased fire activity has prompted more than 30 Kentucky counties, including Russell, to enact burn bans that prohibit all outdoor burning.
Debris burning, a leading cause of wildfires in Kentucky, is one of the biggest concerns right now to both local and state fire officials and sparks and embers from burning dead limbs, brush and leaves can quickly ignite nearby vegetation and spread out of control especially under warm, dry and windy conditions, much like last weeks Parksridge fire.
Another concern for forest fire hazard season is arson, according to the Department of Forestry.
Even though deliberately setting fire to the forest is punishable by fines and/or imprisonment, more than 55 percent of forest fires in Kentucky are the result of arson, forestry statistics show.
Citizens who witness suspected arson activity are asked to call local law enforcement, Kentucky State Police post 15 or the Target Arson Hotline at 1-800-27-ARSON.
For more information regarding fire hazard seasons, contact the Kentucky Division of Forestry at 1-800-866-0555 or visit the division's Web site at http://www.forestry.ky.gov/programs/firemanage/. 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.