Summer 2012 has gotten off to a hot and dry start, causing many communities in central Kentucky, including Jessamine County, to enact burning bans.
With more hot and dry weather on the way, Jessamine County and Nicholasville fire officials are concerned that the bangs and booms associated with the Fourth of July holiday will result in an uptick in grass fires.
On Tuesday, the National Weather Service issued an “elevated fire danger” warning.
“A very strong area of high pressure at the surface and aloft will dominate the Ohio Valley for the next several days,” the bulletin said. “This will continue to allow for very dry conditions and ultimately result in extreme temperatures beginning Thursday.”
That was not music to the ears of local fire officials whose crews have kept busy in the last several days fighting grass and mulch fires.
The Nicholasville Fire Department battled six such fires Monday while the Jessamine County Fire District fought one.
The decision whether to allow fireworks to be set off has not been made yet, Nicholasville deputy fire chief Kevin Baker said.
“We are hoping to get some rain before the July 4th holiday,” he said. “We are evaluating the weather conditions, and if the conditions get so bad that we’ve got to take into consideration of the safety of the community, we will issue the order, if we have too. But that’s not our goal.”
The city fire department has fought 16 grass and mulch fires through Monday, including 12 in the past 10 days, while county firefighters have put out five such fires in June. The Wilmore Fire Department has not had a grass fire, but fire chief Jimmy Powers said his crews are on alert because of the high temperatures.
“I think the city of Wilmore knows about the burn ban, and with the heat, know they have to be careful,” Powers said. “But we’ve been really lucky; things have been running pretty smooth.”
Fireworks and discarded smoking devices such as cigarettes are the primary cause of grass and mulch fires, Baker said.
“They’re running us crazy right now with people throwing out cigarettes,” Baker said. “Monday’s fires were almost completely caused by the careless discarding of cigarettes, and we had one that was caused by fireworks.”
Jessamine County Fire Chief Mike Rupard said it would be tough to stop people from setting off fireworks and he hopes that residents will use common sense.
“People really need to watch the conditions,” Rupard said. “As dry as it has been, they don’t need to go out in these grassy fields or set them off close to any structures.”
Last week, Jessamine County judge-executive Neal Cassity signed an executive order calling for a burn ban. He said there probably isn’t any way to prevent residents from shooting off fireworks.
“I don’t know if we’re going to be able to police anything that isn’t very organized,” Cassity said. “Just about everybody is going to be shooting fireworks off. I don’t know how you’re going to police it, but we’re going to strongly suggest that they not do it.”
Rupard said the county will follow the state fire marshal’s advice.
“They left it up to each county judge, and they’re urging people to use caution and common sense,” Rupard said. “Take the conditions into consideration.”