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Surge of wildfires has crews across the state straining to keep up

Kentucky Division of Forestry

Officials with the Kentucky Division of Forestry said fire crews have been battling more than 60 wildfires in southeastern Kentucky in the past week, and resources are stretched thin.

Local departments within the area are doing what they can but calls for out-of-state reinforcement have been made. KDF said crews from the Oregon Department of Forestry and the Idaho Department of Lands will be lending aid.

Harold Horton is a sergeant and chaplain with Grayson Fire Department in Carter County. He said their station would love to send crews to help, but they simply don’t have the manpower.

“There is a huge shortage of individuals that are willing to step up and assist with their fire departments locally,” he said. “Numbers have dwindled in every department in the US, volunteer-wise.”

Horton attributed that shortage to the fact that firefighting is what he calls a “young man’s game.”

“What you’re seeing now in most of your rural departments, the mean age of your members now has gone from 25-30, that number has moved up now to 45-55. It’s a growing problem. It’s getting worse,” Horton said. “We’re starting to see fewer and fewer applications come through.”

KDF officials said the unseasonably warm temperatures and droughts in the area make controlling the region’s wildfires more difficult and advised the public to be cautious with any outdoor fires.