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Gov. Beshear thanks firefighters as wildfire threat subsides

From Crystal Staley/Scottie Ellis

Frankfort, KY - On Nov. 21, 2023, Gov. Andy Beshear announced that overnight rain and continuing efforts by more than 300 firefighters have greatly lessened the number and size of wildfires throughout the commonwealth, and as of 10amET, the Kentucky Division of Forestry (KDF) reported no active wildfires.

A total of 12 fires are contained - those that have containment lines stopping their spread but that require some level of action - and 257 fires are now considered controlled - those that have been managed and are no longer at risk of escaping control lines.

"It has been a long three weeks for Kentucky's firefighters and those across the nation who came to our aid," Gov. Beshear said. "We are grateful for those working on the frontlines, around the clock, to get these fires under control. They've done a tremendous job under tough circumstances."

Gov. Beshear issued a state of emergency on Nov. 9 as numerous wildfires spread throughout the commonwealth, many in Eastern Kentucky. The executive order allowed state resources like Kentucky Emergency Management and the Kentucky National Guard to be activated as needed. The state's Emergency Operations Center was also activated to Level 4.

Since Nov. 3, crews have worked to control 269 wildfires, and nearly 34,700 acres of forestland have burned.

KDF Director and State Forester Brandon Howard expressed his appreciation to an exceptional team, both within Kentucky's division and those in-state and out-of-state partners.

"They work weekends, holidays and throughout the night on so many occasions to protect the citizens, infrastructure and forest resources in the areas they serve. Their great work has positioned our state well, and the rain has greatly diminished our wildfire threat for the next several days."

Howard encouraged Kentuckians to stay vigilant, however. Although rainfall has helped, Kentucky continues to be in a drought situation. Many counties have issued burn bans, and the state's Wildland Fire Hazard Season continues until Dec. 15. Burn bans prohibit the burning of any kind of material at any time of the day. For current county burn bans, please click here.

In addition to local and state responders, the KDF coordinated assistance from forestry teams from the U.S. Forest Service (including the Daniel Boone National Forest) and the state forestry agencies of Idaho, Oregon, Washington, Utah, Florida, Minnesota, Arkansas, Pennsylvania and Texas. The Virginia Division of Forestry teamed with KDF crews to control wildfires along state lines. Approximately 340 firefighting personnel assisted the effort.

Gov. Beshear ordered flags at all state buildings to be lowered to half-staff from sunrise to sunset Monday, Nov. 20, in honor of Sgt. Thomas "Tom" Petschke Jr. of the Ballardsville Fire Department who suffered a medical emergency while fighting a wildfire Saturday, Nov. 11.

The Disaster Distress Helpline is a 24/7, year-round, confidential crisis counseling and emotional support resource for survivors, responders and anyone in the United States struggling with distress or other mental health concerns related to any natural or human-caused disaster.

Kentuckians can visit to prepare for wildfires and learn how to make a plan to stay safe.

This story was posted on 2023-11-21 16:23:29
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