September 15, 1999 | By: Aimee D. Heald
LEXINGTON, KY

Forest fires started in July in the Commonwealth. Yes, you heard that right, July. Normally, forest fires don't become a problem until the leaves fall in October. But 1999 is in no way a normal year. Timber can now be added to the long list of 1999 drought victims.

"Foresters across the state have been battling fires since July," Doug McLaren, forest management specialist for the University of Kentucky's College of Agriculture, said. "Presently, the fires have been contained to small areas."

McLaren warned the concern is about the near future. With leaves falling to the ground, more ‘ignition materials' (leaves and twigs, etc.) will be present and an increased drying of heavy, long-term burning fuels of limbs and logs will increase fire potential.

The chance for forest fires is increasing, while the chance of rain is decreasing. September and October, traditionally are Kentucky's driest months. Even after a forest fire, trees in many burned areas will ‘green-out' by next spring.

The problems of a forest fire in the Commonwealth woodlands today will not be seen for many years. When landowners attempt to sell their timber in the future, they will find that any fires in 1999 greatly reduced their potential value well into the next millennium.

"Another concern for foresters are the quickly approaching hunting seasons," McLaren said. "This will place more people in the woodlands." With dry conditions, it's very important for hunters and recreationists to be good stewards of the land they are using. It's sad but true that campers, hikers, hunters, etc. do contribute to the total number of forest fires in Kentucky. The Governor's office does have the ability to close the woodlands to hunters if the Division of Forestry requests the action.

"Rain and people's responsibility to not set woodlands on fire are the two major ways to reduce or eliminate the chance of forest fires," McLaren said.

The UK Agricultural Weather Center has updates on fire weather conditions. You can find this information at http://wwwagwx.ca.uky.edu then click on Kentucky Weather and Climate Information. From there, click on Fire Weather. You will find a fire danger map and daily updates on fire danger in Kentucky.

Contact: 

Writer: Aimee D. Heald 606-257-9764

Source: Doug McLaren 606-257-2703