Crews continue to battle forest fires across the region

WYMT Mountain News Weekend Edition newscast at 6 p.m. on Sunday
Published: Nov. 5, 2023 at 6:52 PM EST
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HARLAN COUNTY, Ky. (WYMT) - Firefighters across the region have had a busy weekend as several forest fires have caused different agencies to battle the flames.

In Harlan County, there have been six forest fires, leading Judge Executive Dan Mosely to declare a State of Emergency.

Sunshine Volunteer Fire Department Chief, Steven Hatfield, said even though they haven’t evacuated folks, some fires have been close to homes.

“One of the fires we’ve been working on right now, we’ve been working for about 16 hours, we’ve around 30 structures that have been in danger during the course of fighting the fire,” he said.

He said fire officials from different departments have come together to fight the fires.

“90 percent of all of the county departments have been running for the past 48 plus hours. We’re in the process right now, looking to bring some more departments from other counties in, some people from those, to try and assist us to at least give our guys and some of the other departments a break,” he explained.

Hatfield said the lack of rain is the main cause of the fires. Adding that rain will help with the dry conditions.

“We desperately need rain to help control the fires and also reduce the chance of actually having more,” he said.

He said they are dealing with a lot at the moment.

“Practice fire safety during this time, first responders are really overwhelmed in Southeastern Kentucky right now. I know there’s a lot of counties that are dealing with the same thing that we’re dealing with. Just the volume and the amount of fires is really wearing everybody down,” he said.

Burn bans are in place between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. Hatfield said it’s important that if you do burn, do it safely.

“Try to keep a water hose, keep a rake, don’t leave it unattended, stay with the fire until it’s completely extinguished and there’s no visible embers because the wind can pick up and blow an ember up maybe 100 feet and start a fire even though you weren’t close to anything,” he said.

He also said to not burn anything within 100 feet of sticks, branches, leaves, etc.

To report illegal burning or fires, call your county’s sheriff’s office or emergency management office.

Hatfield said to not assume officials have been called, adding that the earlier they receive the calls, the faster they can put fires out.