Keep it under control: Fall forest fire hazard season begins

As cooler temperatures and falling leaves return, so has Kentucky’s fall wildfire season, running from October to Dec. 15.

Despite a wet beginning to fall, weather conditions can change quickly and become favorable to wildfire activity.

Wildfires in Kentucky threaten damage to homes, private property, trees and landscapes. More importantly, wildfires place lives at risk, including those of firefighters. The vast majority of Kentucky’s wildfires are preventable, the result of arson and careless open-burning (burning of trash, debris and brush).

The Kentucky Division of Forestry reminds us of the rules to keep ourselves, our neighbors, our homes and property as safe as possible.

It is against the law to do any open burning within 150 feet of any woodland or brushland between the daylight hours of 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. during the fall and spring forest fire hazard seasons.

Compounding the risk, during the October to December fire hazard season, Kentucky typically sees lower relative humidity (RH) numbers than in summer, and winds become erratic due to the seasonal change. Because the humidity rises during the day and winds fall, restricting burning until after 6 p.m. during the fall and spring reduces the chances of outdoor fires escaping.

Arson continues to be the leading cause of wildfires in Kentucky, and will again be a focus of the division. The Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources officers will once again be assisting the division by investigating arson-caused wildfires.

“The partnership with Fish and Wildlife allows us to increase our ability to put professional investigators on arson cases. A single arsonist can set multiple fires and it is important to find and prosecute them,” Division of Forestry Director James Wright said.

Arson is a felony offense and those convicted of arson can face fines and imprisonment.

The Division of Forestry offers these tips for safe outdoor burning:

– Consider alternatives to burning. Some yard debris, such as leaves and grass, may be more valuable if composted.

– Check with the fire marshal’s office for local laws on burning debris. Some communities allow burning only during specified hours; others forbid it entirely.

– Check the weather. Don’t burn if conditions are dry or windy.

– Only burn natural vegetation from your property. Burning household trash or any other man-made materials is illegal. Trash should be hauled away.

– If you must burn, be prepared. Use a shovel or hoe to clear a perimeter around the area where you plan to burn.

– Keep fire tools ready. To control the fire, you will need a hose, bucket, a steel rake and a shovel for tossing dirt on the fire.

– Never use flammable liquids such as kerosene, gasoline or diesel fuel to speed burning.

– Stay with your fire until it is completely out.

As officials have said, most of Kentucky’s wildfires are preventable and the result of human activity. If people start wildfires, people can prevent them.

So when the urge for fall cleaning extends to burning brush in your yard or property, we urge everybody to follow the law and keep it under control.

Richmond Register