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Western Kentucky prepares for wildfire season with tornado debris still an issue

A prescribed fire burning at Land Between the Lakes.
Land Between the Lakes Recreation Area
A prescribed fire burning at Land Between the Lakes.

Spring is approaching for Kentucky with fears that burning debris left over from the Dec. 10 Tornado Outbreak could cause wildfires.

The season runs from Feb. 15 through April 23 each year. Kentucky residents are instructed not to burn on days where there is a low humidity and strong winds where fires can spread easily. County officials in the state must adhere to Kentucky Revised Statute 149.375,which requires citizens to make sure their fires are in an open area where flammable material is cleared.

Officials with the Hopkins County Emergency Management Teams say the county is educating its residents about the dangers of wildfires.

“People should have a way to readily extinguish their fires in case they become uncontrollable,” said Nick Bailey, director for the Hopkins County Emergency Management. “You definitely don’t want to be near any structures.”

Emergency management teams across western Kentucky are spreading the word about debris burning and its dangers. Counties in western Kentucky allow burning as long as the fire is not in or within 150 feet of forested area or bushland. Citizens are also told not to burn near highways or busy roads to not inhibit the views of drivers.

The start of wildfire season means winds will be stronger and certain areas will be dryer. The Land Between the Lakes Recreation area has also prepared for the wildfire season using prescribed burning or preburning.

This practice helps clear an area of flammable materials such as dry leaves and grass that could become fuel for an invading wildfire. These prescribed burnings are taking place on the north and south sides of LBL.

LBL official Scott Raymond says prescribed burning is perhaps the most effective way to contain wildfires..

Raymond says that the tornadoes in December created storm damaged timber which are downed trees that can help wildfires spread.

“That's what we are currently assessing,” Raymond says. “To see what's the best way to be able to treat the landscape appropriately to mitigate any wildfire potential as we move into a dryer season.”

Several wildfires have already been reported in different areas in the southern U.S., including North Carolina and Florida. Raymond says a lot of people believe a misconception that wildfire season for Kentucky usually starts in the summer when western states have their wildfire seasons.

Mason Galemore is a Murray State student studying journalism. He was the editor-in-chief of his high school newspaper. Since then has explored different publication avenues such as broadcasting. He hopes to travel as a journalist documenting conflict zones and different cultures. He remembers watching the Arab Spring in 2011 via the news when he was a kid, which dawned in a new age of journalism grounded in social media. His favorite hobbies are hiking, photography, reading, writing and playing with his Australian Shepard, Izzy. He is originally from Charleston, Missouri.
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