Monday, November 06, 2000

Ky. on the lookout for fire-setters

80 percent in forests may be man-made

The Associated Press

        LOUISVILLE — As forest fires continue to burn in eastern Kentucky, law enforcement agencies are beefing up efforts to catch those believed to be starting some of them.

        Sheriff's departments in a number of counties and the state Division of Forestry will increase patrols through regions affected by fires, said Diana Olszowy, spokeswoman for the Kentucky Di vision of Forestry.

        Officials estimate that more than 80 percent of the forest fires have been intentionally set.

        About 26,000 acres are burning in the southeast portion of the state in Whitley, Knox, Bell and Harlan counties, a forestry official said Sunday. The Division of Forestry said late Sunday afternoon that 34 fires were burning across the state.

        The largest fires were in Bell County, the agency said, where two blazes were spanning more than 9,000 acres. Another 4,000 acres were burning in Leslie County and a total of nine fires were burning in Harlan County.

        The U.S. Forest Service said nearly 7,000 acres of federally owned forests were burning Saturday in 42 separate fires but that 30 of the fires had been contained.

        About 80 additional members of the Kentucky National Guard have been activated to help with firefighting, a forestry official said Sunday. In all, 160 guardsmen have been activated to fight fires in Betsy Layne, Pineville and Hazard.

        The Division of Forestry said the Guard has assigned six Blackhawk helicopters to assist in fighting the fires.

        Firefighters were ham pered Saturday by low cloud cover and heavy smoke that prevented scout helicopters from flying. It made it difficult to anticipate where fires were starting and rekindling, Ms. Olszowy said.

        But helicopters used to dump 600-gallon buckets of water on the fires were able to fly.

        No homes have burned since four were destroyed in McCreary County early last week.

        The Division of Forestry reported Sunday that 37 counties have issued outdoor burning bans.


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