Dry and windy conditions spark burn warnings across the region

Published: Feb. 14, 2023 at 5:39 PM EST
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BOYD COUNTY, Ky. (WSAZ) - Windy and dry conditions are expected until Thursday, which is making emergency officials worried brush fires could pop up across the region.

“In minutes you can go from an ember hitting a pile of leaves, or debris, or pine needles and such on the ground, and in minutes you have hundreds of feet of woodlands on fire,” said Tim England, the Boyd County emergency management director.

Last week, brush fires in multiple counties burned dozens of acres including one in Rush, Kentucky.

“It was so windy we were making sure everyone stayed in the burned area, in other words no one got into the area that had not been burned that way you didn’t have to worry about being overcome by the fire,” England said.

Warmer temperatures may bring the urge for some spring cleaning, but England says you can clean your property but hold off on burning any debris.

Burning restrictions go into effect in Kentucky at midnight Tuesday. This means you can only burn from 6 p.m. until 6 a.m.

“The reasoning behind the 6 p.m. deal is overnight typically the winds die down and typically the dewpoint it’s a lot more moisture in the air,” England said.

England says not to burn until the wind dies down and we get rain, but says if you have to burn, by law you cannot burn within 150 feet of any forest line or structure.

He also says to burn in a contained area and you should stay with the fire.

“Have a water source there, so in other words have a water hose there and you stay with it until it’s out,” he said.

If a fire does start, England says it can take hours or days for it to be contained, especially due to the terrain in the region.

“It makes it more difficult, because most of the time we’re on foot. You’re going up and down these ridges and you’re trying to control it,” England said.

He says they are starting to use drones to get a better angle than from the ground.

“We’ll try to get ahead of the fire and see where it’s going, because it’s a lot quicker to get the drone up and get ahead of the fire and see where the head of the fire is and where the left and right flank is burning,” England said. “We can see if we have any exposures that we’re not aware of barns and buildings are back in some of these properties before we can get someone there on foot.”

During these conditions, England says to use common sense to keep the firefighters safe as well as your land.

“It’s not worth losing acres, and losing a barn, or losing your home. We’ve had several that have come within a few feet of the house,” he said.

Restricted burn season does not begin in Ohio and West Virginia until March 1.

Legal burn times in Ohio are from 6 p.m. until 6 a.m. and 5 p.m. until 7 a.m. in West Virginia.

You can burn vegetation such as brush, tree limbs, leaves and grass, but you can never burn trash.