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The west coast is prone to having forest fires, but the Bluegrass State is also experiencing an active wildfire season so far this year thanks to the extremely dry conditions. Last week, a large blaze, which started during the early afternoon on Thursday in a LaRue County soybean field north of Sonora, burned approximately 1,000 acres. Authorities closed Ky. 84 to traffic and evacuated about 10 homes in the area. The billowing smoke could be seen from Elizabethtown.
Marion County also had its fair share of forest and field fires, as well. Four separate fires kept local fire departments busy. Tuesday of last week, a forest fire was reported on Travis Creek Road in Bradfordsville. That same forest fire re-ignited Wednesday afternoon. Also on Wednesday, the Lebanon and Loretto fire departments responded to a cornfield on fire on Section House Road. According to Marion County Fire Chief, that blaze was sparked when a bushhog caught fire.
Sunday afternoon, a 20-acre corn field was reported to be on fire on Rueben Smith Road in Loretto. The Lebanon, Loretto and Raywick fire departments responded, along with fire fighters from Nelson County.
According to Chief Mattingly, that fire was started after someone decided to burn a brush pile.
"It blows my mind," he said. "How stupid can you be? Use a little common sense and don't start any outside fires around any kind of wooded area or vegetation.
According to the Kentucky Division of Forestry (KDF), the division has been fighting wildfires consistently since drought conditions began in September.
According to Marion County Judge/Executive John G. Mattingly, there isn't a local burn ban in effect, mainly because, in order to do that, the county would have to pass a special ordinance. But he encourages everyone to use extra caution, especially when throwing out cigarette butts.
The fall forest fire hazard season runs through Dec. 15. During this time, it is illegal to burn anything within 150 feet of any woodland or brushland 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 after 6 p.m. when conditions are less likely to cause a wildfire to spread. Many counties have local burning bans in place making it illegal to burn outdoors at anytime while the ban is in place.
To help prevent wildfires, KDF recommends the following precautions:
· Avoid burning debris during fire hazard seasons and during times of dry, windy conditions. Outdoor burning is illegal between the hours of 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. in or within 150 feet of any woodland or brushland during forest fire hazard seasons.
· Extinguish all campfires and debris piles completely. Never leave a fire unattended and always extinguish fires if conditions become too windy. The smallest spark can lead to a dangerous wildfire.
· Extinguish smoking materials properly. Put out cigarettes, cigars, or pipes only in cleared areas free of vegetation or debris. A carelessly discarded cigarette can start a wildfire that could blacken thousands of acres.
· Avoid parking cars, trucks, or recreational vehicles on dry vegetation. The exhaust system on a vehicle can reach a temperature of more than 1,000 degrees, which is hot enough to start a wildfire during our current dry season.
· Incorporate 'Firewise' practices around homes and communities in forested areas. Firewise practices range from creating a defensible space by removing leaves, debris and firewood to ensuring access for safety personnel and equipment in rural or isolated areas.
· Report suspicious acts of arson to the nearest Kentucky State Police post or call the Target Arson Hotline at 1-800-27-ARSON.
For more information about how you can prevent wildfires, contact the Kentucky Division of Forestry at 1 (800) 866-0555 or visit the division's website at http://forestry.ky.gov/Pages/default.aspx.