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Amanda Wheeler | Many Kentucky forest fires caused by human activity

Kentucky forests are being ravaged by wildfires right now. The fires are so big that on some days, the smoke blows many counties over on the wind.

According to the Kentucky Division of Forestry’s Wildland Fire Management, there were 20 different fires they were battling as of Nov. 9.

In 2016, there have been 996 fires. Of those fires, 688 were caused by arson, 196 were caused by debris, and the other 112 were in the “other” category, which includes smoking, lightning, railroads, children, equipment use and other miscellaneous methods. 

Close to 30,000 acres of forest have burned in about half a month, which is way more than burned in all of 2015.

Almost 70 percent of fires this year were directly caused by humans who set them, and many of the others were indirectly caused by human activity. It’s no joke when Smokey Bear says that “only you can prevent forest fires.” It really is up to us to decide whether fires occur or not by changing how we act in nature.

Some amount of fire is natural and actually necessary for the environment to stay healthy. Nature is pretty good at providing those fires itself — it doesn’t need help from us, especially in the form of random fires set by people behaving badly.

Some ways you can avoid contributing to man-made forest fires are:

Don’t park your car on long dry grass. I never thought of this before but the heat from your car even after you turn it off can be enough to set grass on fire if it’s dry enough.

Don’t throw cigarette butts or burned matches on the ground. First of all, never throw your cigarette butts on the ground because that is littering and cigarette butts are not biodegradable or harmless to the environment. Specific to this issue, cigarette butts and used matches can ignite dry grass and brush. Make sure to always dispose of these items appropriately.

Never leave a campfire unattended. Even if it seems like it’s well-controlled and couldn’t catch anything else on fire, you can’t be 100 percent sure unless you’re there to monitor it. Before you leave a campfire site, make sure you pour water on it and stir the ashes around to make sure there are no hot spots left.

If you’re going to burn things in your yard, make sure you follow local ordinances and obtain appropriate permits. Also follow any burn bans that may be in effect. Burn bans aren’t just there to annoy you; they are put in place by fire officials who study the area for dryness and determine that the risk of fires spreading is too great. Be a responsible citizen and follow the rules, and make sure you stay with your fire until it’s out and cool.