Lincoln County lifts burn ban, officials continue to urge caution

STANFORD – After some recent rainfall and future weather predictions of more to come, the burn bans for Stanford and Lincoln County have been lifted.

A county-wide burn ban was issued on Nov. 18 in response to what fire officials and Judge-Executive Jim Adams called an “extreme fire hazard due to low humidity, above average temperature and lack of rainfall.”

The ban prohibited open burning of materials such as piles of brush, tree limbs or leaves but allowed for contained, outdoor fires in fireplaces, pits or barrels.

During the month of November, only about 1.7 inches of rain fell in Lincoln County and prior to the Nov. 18 burn ban, only about .04 inches of precipitation had fallen in the area.

While other counties have started lifting bans on open burning, a number of complete burn bans remained in effect this week, according to the Kentucky Division of Forestry (KDF), due to severe drought conditions that persist throughout the state and some southeastern regions still under extreme drought conditions.

“If your county does not have a burn ban, our regular fire season statutes still apply,” KDF said on it’s public Facebook page Nov. 28. “That means that between (Dec. 1) through (Dec. 15), burning within 150 feet of a forest between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. is illegal.”

The number of county-wide burn bans rose earlier this month as hundreds of volunteer firefighters headed east to join efforts to contain thousands of acres burning in as many as five counties: Harlan; Knox; Clay; Perry; and Letcher.

Governor Matt Bevin declared a state of emergency on Nov. 3 in response to as many as 38 wildfires burning in southeastern Kentucky – that number quickly climbed into the hundreds as dry conditions continued with strong wind gusts, spreading the fires across the region.

The Kentucky National Guard joined the firefighting efforts in helicopters as they dropped 600-gallon buckets of water from the sky and provided an ariel perspective.

Various state agencies including the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources (KDFWR), the Division of Mine Reclamation and Enforcement, Division of Mine Safety, the Department of Corrections, Department of Natural Resources and more responded to the fires that burned across more than 49,000 acres, according to the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet.

The State Emergency Operations Center managed the efforts of Kentucky Emergency Management, environmental protection, American Red Cross and others to help maintain the safety of citizens.

Officials from the Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet estimate about 150, or 76 percent, of the fires were intentionally while the Associated Press reported the arson-related arrest of 21-year-old Johnny Mullins, of Jenkins.

Mullins was arrested and charged with arson after admitting to setting the fire to generate interest on his weather-related Facebook page. A Harlan County teenager was also arrested for arson and multiple arrests have been made across several counties for violating burn bans. KDFWR had issued a total of 59 fire citations as of Nov. 23.

According to Lincoln County Fire Station No. 1 Captain John Hasty, four Lincoln County firefighters traveled to Hazard on Nov. 10 to help fight the wildfires and were expected to aid efforts during a three-day assignment.

Officials with KDF announced last Wednesday they would be demobilizing outside resources, leaving future fire control in the hands of local authorities.

As Kentucky continued to gain momentum in their firefighting efforts this week, news of wildfires ravaging through the Great Smoky Mountains surfaced Monday as video footage and photographs showed thousands of Gatlinburg residents and visitors fleeing from the area.

SO YOU KNOW
• Updates on burn bans across the state, as well as tips on how to prevent fires and abide by fire-burning restrictions can also be found on the KDF’s Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/Kentucky-Division-of-Forestry-261039753930985/).
• Anyone wishing to ‘openly’ burn brush in Lincoln County must first obtain permission from their local fire department by calling (606) 365-4557.