Brush Fires On the Rise; Fueled By Weather Conditions

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- The wind, high heat and low humidity are fueling brush fires.

Crews in the Tri-State are fighting them and in Northeastern Kentucky, they fought 19 new fires Saturday.

Brush fires in West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky are burning thousands of acres this spring.

"Nearly every day of our fire season, we've had a brush fire that we've had to respond to," said Kentucky Northeast Regional Forester, Floyd Willis.

In Northeastern Kentucky, forestry workers have fought about 200 brush fires since February 15th.

It's a big job for the roughly 150 people on crew.

"We prepare all year for the fire season and we stay prepared but it's over weeks at a time you start to get tired," said Willis.

There are still plenty of flames to fight in Johnson, Carter and Greenup counties.

"Forest fires are so remote and big, it's really difficult to get water to them."

That means wearing protective gear and using tools to stay safe while getting the job done.

"You're taking your life into your own hands," said Willis.

Crews use bulldozers, leaf-blowers and bigger rakes to stop the fire from spreading.

"We couldn't walk the hills with actual firefighter bunker gear," said Willis.

Forestry officials said brush fires are common in the Tri-State, especially with dry, windy conditions. But they said the destruction left behind can be avoided.

"Be aware of each state, the state that they live in, their fire burning laws."

They said checking conditions with the forestry office where you live, could mean waiting to burn by a day or so.

But it could also prevent a major brush fire.

Forestry officials said a majority of fires are started by people.

Last fall, West Virginia's Forestry Division reported 51% of forest fires were arson.

If you're caught burning illegally, you could face steep fines or penalties.

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