Our view: Fire safety is more important now than ever

Published 12:44 pm Wednesday, November 16, 2016

For more than 70 years, Smokey Bear has been telling us “only you can prevent forest fires.”

As Kentucky faces one of its driest and warmest Novembers in many years, this is more important than ever. Firefighters continue to battle wildfires across the state with more than 40,000 acres already burned.

Although Clark County has been fortunate so far, many other counties face significant safety, environmental and public health hazards.  

“The Kentucky Division of Forestry has responded to nearly 40 wildfires across the Commonwealth, with the largest fires located in Harlan, Pike, Letcher, Knox, and Bell counties,” according to the Kentucky Emergency Management agency. “In addition to the Division of Forestry, firefighting efforts are being conducted by the Kentucky National Guard, local fire departments, and volunteer firefighters from across Kentucky. No serious injuries, deaths, evacuations, or threats to residences have been reported at this time.”

To date, there have been 245 fires and more than 75 counties have issued burn bans.

Citizens can do their part by being smart. It is also critical to be alert to what is going on around you as approximately 75 percent of the more than 200 fires since late October have been caused by arson.

KYEM has provided wildfire safety/preparation tips that can be the difference between life and death:

— Have fire extinguishers on hand and train your family how to use them.

— Ensure that your family knows where your gas, electric, and water main shut-off controls are located.

— Have an emergency supply kit.

— Maintain a list of emergency contact numbers posted near your phone and in your emergency supply kit.

— Have a portable radio or scanner so you can stay updated on the fire.

— Regularly clean roofs and gutters.

— Maintain an area approximately 30 feet away from you home that is free of anything that will burn, such as wood piles, dried leaves, newspapers and other brush.

Create an evacuation plan that includes:

— A designated emergency meeting location outside the fire or hazard area. This is critical to determine who has safely evacuated from the affected area.

— Several different escape routes from your home and community.

— Have an evacuation plan for pets and large animals such as horses and other livestock.

— A family communication plan that designates an out-of-area friend or relative as a point of contact to act as a single source of communication among family members in case of separation.

Smoky had it right all along, and taking his advice to heart is critical for the safety of Kentuckians and the natural resources we treasure.