Don’t get burned: It’s up to us to prevent wildfires

As cooler temperatures and falling leaves return so has Kentucky’s fall wildfire season, running from October to Dec. 15.

The Kentucky Division of Forestry reminds us of the rules to keep ourselves, our neighbors, our homes and property as safe as possible.

It is against the law to do any open burning within 150 feet of any woodland or brushland between the daylight hours of 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. during the fall and spring forest fire hazard seasons.

Compounding the risk, during the October to December fire hazard season, Kentucky typically sees lower relative humidity (RH) numbers than in summer, and winds become erratic due to the seasonal change. Because the humidity rises during the day and winds fall, restricting burning until after 6 p.m. during the fall and spring reduces the chances of outdoor fires escaping.

Arson is a felony offense and, last fire season, 70 people were given citations for illegal burning and 14 were arrested and charged with setting fires in the Commonwealth.

The Division of Forestry offers these tips for safe outdoor burning:

. Consider alternatives to burning. Some yard debris, such as leaves and grass, may be more valuable if composted.

. Check with the fire marshal’s office for local laws on burning debris. Some communities allow burning only during specified hours; others forbid it entirely.

. Check the weather. Don’t burn if conditions are dry or windy.

. Only burn natural vegetation from your property. Burning household trash or any other man-made materials is illegal. Trash should be hauled away.

. If you must burn, be prepared. Use a shovel or hoe to clear a perimeter around the area where you plan to burn.

. Keep fire tools ready. To control the fire, you will need a hose, bucket, a steel rake and a shovel for tossing dirt on the fire.

. Never use flammable liquids such as kerosene, gasoline or diesel fuel to speed burning.

. Stay with your fire until it is completely out.

Last fall, the division responded to 520 fires that burned 52,216 acres with a timber value loss of $20,642,663. The majority of the fires occurred in November.

Most of Kentucky’s wildfires are preventable. They are the result of human activity — arson and careless open-burning (burning of trash, debris and brush). If people start wildfires, people can prevent them.

So when the urge for fall cleaning extends to burning brush in your yard or property, we urge everybody to follow the law and keep it under control.

Richmond Register