Wildfire in Kentucky

Kentucky’s State Forests

The Division of Forestry owns and manages 10 state forests Big River, Green River, Pennyrile, Marrowbone, KY Ridge, Kentenia, Tygarts, Rolleigh Peterson, Knobs and Marion County –  with a combined total of 48,173 acres.

The state forest properties are managed using the ecosystem management approach to ensure biological diversity and sustainable use.  They are working forests and educational demonstration areas exist in each.

Recent additions to the state forestry property have been provided by the Forest Legacy Program and the Kentucky Heritage Land Conservation Fund. Revenue from the fund comes from a percentage of the state’s portion of the unmined minerals tax, environmental penalties and state nature license plate sales. The division continues to seek new properties to add to the state forest program. 

The state forest properties are managed using the ecosystem management approach to ensure biological diversity and sustainable use.  They are working forests and educational demonstration areas exist in each.

Recent additions to the state forestry property have been provided by the Forest Legacy Program and the Kentucky Heritage Land Conservation Fund. Revenue from the fund comes from a percentage of the state’s portion of the unmined minerals tax, environmental penalties and state nature license plate sales. The division continues to seek new properties to add to the state forest program.  

Learn more, link here


Wildland Fire Hazard Seasons and Enforcement

The Division of Forestry is responsible for fighting wildland fires on private lands and enforcing forest fire hazard seasons and other outdoor burning regulations.  During forest fire hazard season, it is illegal to burn between the hours of 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. within 150 feet of any woodland or brushland.  The season dates are as follows:

  • Spring Forest Fire Hazard Season: Feb. 15 through April 30
  • Fall Forest Fire Hazard Season: Oct. 1 through Dec. 15


Kentucky Statewide Assessment of Forest Resources and Strategy

The Division of Forestry most far-reaching and recent publication is the Kentucky Statewide Assessment of Forest Resources and Strategy document.  The document outlines forest-related issues and prioritizes the development of a long-term resource strategy specific to Kentucky’s forest needs.

Link to information about resources.  


Wildland Fire Suppression Efforts

Wildland fires have been occurring in Kentucky for thousands of years.  Native Americans used fire to clear land for wildlife and early settlers adopted these same land-clearing techniques.  Unfortunately, these fires began to threaten homes and communities prompting the need to suppress wildfires and establish forest protection laws. 

The first forest protection laws were enacted in 1831 in a few specific counties with heavily wooded areas.  The fine and penalty for setting a fire was $20.  Today, Kentucky’s forest protection laws include much stiffer penalties for intentionally setting a fire on land owned by another (KRS 149.380).  The penalties for violating KRS 149.380 include a fine of not less than $1,000 or more than $10,000, imprisonment for not more than five years, or both fine and imprisonment.  

Although the Division of Forestry is the lead agency in fighting wildfires on private lands, there is no one agency that can fight all the wildland fires in Kentucky.  Oftentimes, wildfire suppression may involve several different agencies as well as rural and city fire departments.  On larger fires or during times of extreme fire activity, agencies will work together under the Incident Command System to fight fires. 

Resource mobilization for larger fires originate at the Kentucky Interagency Coordination Center.