Officials with the Kentucky Division of Forestry said 125 fires are either reported, active, contained, or controlled across the state, impacting around 17,000 acres of land. This is why Breathitt County residents like Ted Shalack are anxious.
“I’ve never actually faced fires like this, this close. And when it gets this close to your house, you get a little bit worried,” Shalack said.
While neighbors are worried, they are also doing a lot of work to keep their homes out of harm’s way.
“Early this morning I had to get out there with a water hose and water this side down and make sure it didn’t work its way onto the other side,” Shalack said.
Officials in Breathitt County, along with several other surrounding areas, have burn bans in effect to help stop the potential spread of fires.
Breathitt County Director of Emergency Management Dylan Baker said his team along with six local volunteer fire departments are working with the Division of Forestry to contain the fires as much as they can, but he still has concerns.
“A lot of the people in this county have concerns about health issues. People that have health conditions that the smoke and poor air quality can affect, as well as a threat to our structures, residents, businesses, and things like that. As of right now, that is the that is the biggest concern that I and the first responders in this county have,” Baker said.
First responders are also crossing their fingers that Mother Nature could bring some relief overnight.
“Hopefully rain will come, and that will that will mitigate these issues,” Baker said.
It’s important to note that local fire departments work diligently to make sure forest fires don’t spread to structures such as homes, sheds, barns, and along roadways. It’s the Division of Forestry that deals with it beyond that.
Kentucky Emergency Management said there are 314 firefighters actively engaged.
“We are taking action to make sure that Kentucky families and communities have the resources they need,” Gov. Andy Beshear said. “We appreciate everyone on the front lines stepping up to fight the fires, and we pray for their safety and that these fires can be put out quickly.”
Kentucky Emergency Management said the fires have been most active in Bell, Breathitt, Floyd, Harlan, Knott, Letcher, Martin, Owsley, and Pike counties.
The increase in wildfires is believed to be the result of drought conditions. To contain the situation, responders are receiving assistance from Idaho, Oregon, and Utah forestry teams.
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Laws to prevent price gouging in goods and services have also been activated, to protect those impacted by the fires. If someone feels they are experiencing price gouging, they can report it to the Office of the Attorney General.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has information to help people prepare for wildfires on its website.