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FOREST FIRE SCORCHES 15 ACRES

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Crews from seven departments also respond to house fire, car accidents Thursday

By Phyllis McLaughlin

Emergency responders had a busy night Thursday, starting with a forest fire on a steep hillside near Wise’s Landing, soon followed by a house fire on Colbert Lane and a two-vehicle accident with injuries on Morton Ridge Road.

The first call came from Charles and Besty Liston at 4:47 p.m., who called 911 after noticing smoke coming from the woods below their house, located at the end of Ralston Road.

Firefighters “were right out, thank God,” Charles Liston said in a phone interview Monday. “They were out in a hurry and worked well into the night.”

Crews remained on the scene until about 10 p.m. Forestry officials remained on scene overnight to make sure the blaze didn’t re-ignite.

Liston said the fire got to within 100 feet of their house. A fire truck was stationed at the home to douse embers or flames that threaten the dwelling, and to water down the house to prevent it from catching fire.

Bedford Volunteer Fire Deparment was on scene first, assisted by firefighters from Milton, New Castle, Campbellsburg and Lake Jericho volunteer departments and firefighters from the state Division of Forestry.

“There were people everywhere,” Liston said. “This old farm hasn’t seen this much excitement in 100 years.”

At about 6:25 p.m., Milton firefighters left the scene to respond to a house fire reported at 462 Colbert Lane, also in Bedford. They were assisted by Campbellsburg and Lake Jericho fire department units.

Milton VFRD Chief Jason Long said firefighter Scott McQueary was able to save the family’s dogs from the fire. One person was transported to King’s Daughters’ Hospital in Madison, Ind., for treatment of smoke inhalation. Faulty wiring was determined to be the cause of that blaze.

Little information about the car wreck on Morton Ridge was available by press time Tuesday. Kentucky State Police Trooper Michael Webb, public information officer for Post 5, said a white Honda overturned about a mile down Morton Ridge Road. Two occupants were transported to Baptist Hospital Northeast for treatment.

Rexroat said La Grange EMS handled the accident.  

No cause determined

for wild fire

Meanwhile, the cause of the forest fire on the Liston’s property still has not been determined. Ben Lyle, a forester with the state Division of Forestry, said the fire is still under investigation.

“There are control lines in place, and it’s still smoldering,” Lyle said Monday. “It probably will continue to smolder until we get substantial rain.”

Mark Rexroat, chief of the Bedford VFD, said Friday that contractors for Shelby Rural Electric Cooperative were on the property working to clear brush away from power lines that ascend the hill when the fire started. He said the contractors spotted the blaze and also called it in.

Rexroat said fighting the fire on the rough terrain of the hillside was challenging. “The dry ground made footing bad. There was no traction, and there was so much fuel on the ground with all the fallen leaves. There are a lot of guys who are extremely worn out from this one.”

The steep hill also made it impossible to get fire hoses close to the flames. “There were places where we couldn’t get water to it, so we had to use hand rakes, flappers and leaf blowers,” Rexroat said.

Flappers are made of a piece of rubber material attached to the end of a handle, which is used to smother the flames, Rexroat explained. He said the leaf blowers worked well to clear leaves and other debris away from the fire, and also to push the flames back toward the center of the fire. 

Wildfire danger may

continue for months

Rexroat and Lyle both caution area residents to continue obeying the burn ban enacted last week by Trimble County Judge-Executive Randy Stevens. Similar bans are in place in Henry, Carroll and Oldham counties.

On Oct. 15, Trimble was added to the list of 50 Kentucky counties under Level 2 drought conditions. The state also added 16 to its list of counties under Level 1 drought conditions.

The region saw a small amount of rain Monday morning – amounting to about four-hundredths of an inch countywide. Prior to that, the county received about three-quarters of an inch of rain on Oct. 13-14.

The last substantial rainfall – 2-2.5 inches – was recorded on Aug. 15-16, according to the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network, www.cocorahs.org.

“This has the potential to be one of the worst fire seasons,” Lyle said. “Even if we get a significant amount of rain, it doesn’t take long for the leaves to dry out and burn again. Conditions are such that we could have more forest fires” even into the winter months.

But Lyle said area residents should be commended. “With the dry conditions and heavy winds, I really expected to have more fires than we have.

Rexroat said he is glad that the burn ban is in place in the county. “Fortunately, we’ve had several grass fires and none have gotten out of control. ... (Thursday) night was definitely our worst fear.”