November 7, 2002 | By: Janet Eaton, Ag. Communications Intern

Kentucky timber stands seem to have dodged most of the fall wildfire season this year due to record rainfall. Tom Priddy, University of Kentucky, College of Agriculture meteorologist, reports this year has been Kentucky's wettest September and October on record, with a state average precipitation of 11.71 inches.

Fewer fires is good news for the state's $5 billion timber industry according to Larry Lowe, superintendent for the timber harvesting section of the Kentucky Division of Forestry.

"For the month of October there have been only three fires reported where there were several hundred in October last year," Lowe said.

Wildfires in Kentucky are not like those in the west where towering columns of flames shoot into the sky and consume everything in their path.

"In Kentucky wildfires burn closer to the ground and, while not usually killing the trees, cause damage that will eventually show up as reduced timber value," said Doug McLaren, UK Extension forest management specialist.

Even when the tree survives the fire, the damage that results will reduce the value of the wood in the tree for the life of the tree, according to McLaren. If the tree is subjected to further fires, the damage is cumulative and the value drops even further.

"Wildfires affect the trees by loosening the bark and creating the possibility of disease," McLaren said.

Kentucky has 12.7 million acres of forestland with 93 percent of that amount in private ownership. Twenty-four thousand Kentucky jobs directly relate to the timber industry, McLaren said.

Kentucky foresters will continue to monitor the fire situation in Kentucky, according to Lowe, since a heavy frost causes leaves to dry quickly and if dried leaves are coupled with an extended period of dry weather, the fire situation in Kentucky could become very different.


Doug McLaren  859-257-2703