In October 2016, Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin declared a wildfire emergency after hundreds of fires consumed land in 49 counties. To combat this natural disaster, more than 500 employees of public and private agencies, including the Kentucky Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), worked tirelessly to contain the fires. The cooperation among state agencies, while presenting some challenges, was credited with allowing the state manage the wildfires in a manner that helped preserve life and property to as great extent as possible.
The State Emergency Operations Center (SEOC), located at the Boone National Guard Center in Frankfort, coordinated the response effort led by the Kentucky Division of Forestry, which partnered with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources to combat arson and illegal burning, the Department for Natural Resources (DNR), and the Department of Corrections to mobilize firefighters from across the Commonwealth, along with the Kentucky National Guard to bring in helicopters for aerial water drops.
The SEOC also coordinated response efforts out of the DEP, Kentucky Emergency Management, Kentucky Fire Commission, American Red Cross, and Louisville Gas & Electric/Kentucky Utilities. A Joint Information Center (JIC) was set up to help communicate health information to the public following air quality testing conducted by the DEP. In conjunction with the Kentucky Department for Public Health, a wildfire Smoke Inhalation Advisory was issued in early November.
The effort of so many agencies was recognized with appreciation by Kentucky DNR Commissioner Allen Luttrell, who thanked the “dedicated and selfless employees who provided the Commonwealth with magnificent service during this wildfire suppression effort.”
For more information on this coordinated effort, see Fighting Kentucky’s Wildfires: A Great Coordinated Effort.
For more information on wildfire smoke and public health, see Wildfire Smoke: A Guide for Public Health Officials revised in May 2016 in conjunction with ECOS.