Last updated: July 24. 2013 2:45PM - 417 Views

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Frank Lewis

PDT Staff Writer

The Kentucky Division of Forestry and several volunteer fire departments in the region have been kept busy the last couple of days battling wildfires. The largest of the fires destroyed 214 acres in Lewis County.

“We have been pretty busy in the area,” Luke Saunier, Fire Chief of the Kentucky Division of Forestry said. “We’re supposed to get some pretty good rain today (Thursday) and I’m hoping that’s going to calm things down for us.”

The largest of the fires occurred in the Lower Twin Branch region of Lewis County.

“It was 214 acres,” Saunier said. “It’s inactive. It was controlled yesterday (Wednesday).”

Saunier said Ranger Nathan Hall was the incident commander on that fire.

“The origin of the fire was an out building that was burned, and we don’t know if it was burned intentionally or how that out building was ignited, but that was the clear origin of the fire,” Saunier said.”There were 24 mile-an-hour winds that day, and when we got there, there were 50 acres burning, and it was really growing fast. So structure protection was a big concern. There were six homes that were saved.”

Saunier credited the local volunteer fire departments with saving those homes. He said three fire departments were involved in joining forces with the KDF - the Garrison Volunteer Fire Department; Black Oak Fire Department and the Firebrick Volunteer Fire Department.

“Those three fire departments rallied around those structures,” Saunier said. “In addition to the structures, they also saved about seven out buildings. They did a great job.”

“Where we had that help from those fire departments, that was really key. When we can get that help to focus on the structures, it allows us to fight the wildfire,” Saunier said. “When we get stuck on structure protection, those fires can get really big. We don’t have time to really cut the head of the fire off and really focus on the fire. You have to do that sometimes if there’s nobody else there, and we can’t get a fire department in, we have to stay with the structure. And then that fire just builds.”

Saunier said local volunteer fire departments always play a major role in getting wildfires under control.

“That’s how it works across the state, it truly is a partnership,” Saunier said. “And they don’t just help with structure protection. There’s times when they’ll monitor a burnout for us and really help us across the board. If we weren’t all working together, this thing would be a whole lot uglier.”

Two fires were located south of Kentucky 10. One of the fires closest to the border between the two states occurred on Shultz Ridge.

“It is actually contained right now,” Saunier said. “That fire was discovered on the (April) 9, and it was contained on the 10, and it involved 39 acres.”

Another fire occurred in Greenup County on Ora Road. That fire affected only two acres before it was brought under control on the same day, Wednesday.

“That fire was right on Kentucky 7,” Saunier said. “That was right there in the middle of Greenup.”

Saunier said the Kentucky Division of Forestry had a total of 28 employees on the Lewis County fire.

“We had two (bull)dozers on it and three crews to contain it,” Saunier said. “If they hadn’t gotten on it when they did, it would have been pretty bad.”

The only injury in all the fires was to a firefighter who was stung by a bee and had an allergic reaction resulting in the need to be taken to a hospital. Saunier said that crew member is okay.

Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 252, or at flewis@civitasmedia.com. For breaking news, follow Frank on Twitter @FrankLewisPDT.

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