Forest fire closes state park in Eastern Kentucky

gkocher1@herald-leader.comApril 13, 2014 

Kingdom Come State Park in Harlan and Letcher counties will be closed at least until Monday because of a forest fire fanned by high winds, a spokesman for the Kentucky Department of Parks.

About 50 Division of Forestry firefighters and local fire departments were working to contain the blaze, which started during the weekend outside the park, said Gil Lawson, spokesman for the Department of Parks.

By 6:15 p.m., the fire covered an estimated 500 acres; 200 of that was on park land and the other 300 was on neighboring private land, said Luke Saunier, fire chief with the state Division of Forestry. The park has nearly 1,700 acres.

Park rangers and forestry officials closed the park about 9:30 a.m. Sunday because smoke was covering roads and trails throughout the park. The winds and hilly terrain caused the flames to jump over some fire lines.

"It's a pretty active fire," Saunier said.

Forestry officials set up an emergency command center at the park.

Lawson could not say whether the park would reopen Monday.

"They are still monitoring it," he said. "We haven't had any buildings damaged. Nobody was hurt. They've just been kind of watching it and fighting it."

Saunier said the fire originated in an abandoned cabin and then spread from there. The Division of Forestry and Kentucky State Police were investigating.

Kingdom Come State Park is not a resort park with lodging. It does have a lake, hiking trails, a few primitive camping sites, picnic shelters and a playground.

"This time of year we don't have a whole lot of visitors during the week," Lawson said. "It's normally open to hikers and campers."

The park takes its name from the novel The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come, published in 1903. Written by John Fox Jr., the book is said to be the first U.S. novel to sell 1 million copies.

A Bourbon County native, Fox wrote the coming-of-age story about an orphan boy from the mountains whose attempt to become a "gentleman" in the Bluegrass was thwarted by the onset of the Civil War.

Greg Kocher: (859) 231-3305. Twitter: @HLpublicsafety.

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