Lexington residents joined the growing list of Kentuckians living with a ban on outdoor fires after the fire department issued the restriction Thursday as dry conditions worsened.
It has not rained in 22 days in Fayette County, the fire department said Thursday morning. Dry ground and vegetation, which are expected to continue, make it easier for fires to spread.
The ban expires on Monday, Oct. 7.
“This includes refuse, cooking and construction debris fires,” the fire department said in a release. “All open burn permits are suspended for the duration of the ban. The ban applies to all residents and businesses in Fayette County, including those in rural and urban areas.”
Gas and charcoal grilling are still allowed because those fires are contained, according to fire department Battalion Chief Jordan Saas. The ban applies to open pit and campfire cooking.
Fayette County joins about 53 other Kentucky counties that have prohibited fires as larger portions of the states experience drought.
Lexington is considered abnormally dry, the least significant of the drought ratings, according to new data released by the National Integrated Drought Information System that provides the U.S. Drought Portal.
The portion of the state experiencing abnormally dry conditions jumped in size 10 percentage points to 40.7 percent in roughly a week. The portion of the state in moderate drought more than doubled to 26.3 percent . The measurements are updated each Tuesday and released on Thursdays, according to the U.S. Drought Portal.
Abnormally dry conditions include slowing growth of crops and lingering water deficits. Damage to crops, developing water shortages and voluntary water-use restrictions are characteristics of moderate drought, according to the drought portal.
The last major drought in Kentucky occurred in late 2016 and produced some wildfires. WKYT chief meteorologist Chris Bailey said the state is long overdue for a forest fire.
“We’re going into October, which is historically our driest month,” Bailey said Tuesday. “We had our wettest year ever last year and our first six months were on pace with last year. All this overgrowth in the woods, it turned them into a rain forest. All that extra fuel is out there drying out. If we do get a forest fire situation this fall, there is more fuel to the forest because of the wet weather we had.”
Fire officials in Lincoln, Laurel and Whitley counties told WKYT earlier this week they have already had a few out of control fires. A big fire can be started with just one small spark, Prestonsburg Fire Department Chief Mike Told told WYMT.
“Then you would endanger homes, forestry, wildlife and not including the men and women who have to go out to try to contain the fires,” Brown said.
The National Weather Service expects some rain Sunday night into Monday in Lexington, but not enough to alleviate the dry spell.
Lexington is on track for the driest September since at least 2010, when the city barely got a half-inch of rain for the whole month, according to Bailey.
Kentucky’s Forest fire hazard season begins Oct. 1 and goes through Dec. 15. During normal forest fire seasons, it is illegal to burn anything between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. within 150 feet of any woodland or brushland.
To report a fire, call 911 in emergency situations or 859-231-5600 in non-emergency situations.