Tuesday, November 06, 2001

Forest fires ravage land, firefighters and budget




By Roger Alford
The Associated Press

        PIKEVILLE, Ky. — Forest fires that have been ravaging eastern Kentucky for the past two weeks are taking their toll on firefighters and budgets as the state is trying to capture arsonists.

        In the latest developments, a California firefighter on assignment to Kentucky was seriously injured when a fire-weakened tree fell on him; the Federal Emergency Management Agency offered to help with the cost of fighting the fires; and more state money was made available for law enforcement personnel to capture arsonists.

        So far this year, 99,600 acres have burned — 46,750 of them since Oct. 30 — in the mountainous eastern portion of the state. The fires, most of which are being blamed on arsonists, have blackened up to 13,000 acres a day in privately owned forests.

        Kris Evans, 30, of Quincy, Calif., is on a respirator at the University of Kentucky Medical Center after being struck by the tree near Peabody.

        At least two other fire fighters have been treated at hospitals for minor injuries and smoke inhalation.

        Mr. Evans, listed in serious condition, suffered a spinal injury, said Marie Walker, spokeswoman for the U.S. Forest Service in Winchester. The tree broke his back, ribs and clavicle, and caused one of lungs to partially collapse, Ms. Walker said.

        Despite the best efforts of firefighters, Kentucky could surpass the 133,000 acres charred by forest fires last year.

        That means the state could eclipse the $4.1 million spent fighting those fires.

       



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