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FEBRUARY/MARCH/APRIL/SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER

WHAT'S ALL THE FUSS ABOUT THESE FOREST FIRES?

During the early portions of the spring and late fall you will hear and see on radio, TV and newspapers the numerous report of forest fires in various locations in Kentucky. In many of the reports, there are photos associated with the reports but much less spectacular than those seen in recent months from west coast fires. News reporters from Kentucky are having to bend over and take pictures of small flames that are burning nothing more than leaf litter. Some times they take a "long" shot and you see nothing but smoke coming up through the trees on the hill side. Nothing like the massive crown fires of the west coast that consume acres of timber in a very few minutes.

Why then, all the fuss? Most reporters only have a short time in which to go out, collect video and return to the studio for deadlines. For this reason, most reporters are stopping along the road sides and getting what they can from that vantage point. Many times reporters are not allowed near the active fire locations.

For the reporter to get a better "angle" on the fire, they should be allowed to move to the tops of the hill so they can watch a fire move up slope that is being pushed and fueled by heated winds and drier fuels near the tops of hills. Here the flames, in many cases, are more spectacular, but because of the danger, are not permitted.

Another issue that faces most reporters is why all the fuss concerning today's forest fires when year after year Kentucky's forests have burned. Sometimes these fires even burn the same areas but the areas will again "green out" in the spring and the trees continues to grow. Again, why all the fuss?

The real issue with forest fires in Kentucky is the future dollar value lost in the trees by the land owner. The fires that burn in Kentucky proceed up a hill and will burn much of the leaf and ground litter. On a slope, this litter will collect on the up hill side of a tree. The fire, as it proceeds up the hill will intensify around these areas of a tree and burn hotter. This heat will increase the internal heat of the tree to a point it will create a point of infection for the individual tree. May times the fire will not kill the tree, only create these infection openings on the uphill side of the tree. The result of this infection will create rot in the tree near the base in future years. This rot will extend upward in the tree stem based upon the intensity and duration of the fire.

The best news reporting that can be done during a fire season in Kentucky is to have a reporter climb a short distance up a slope in Kentucky that has been burned and aim their cameras down slope and see the damage that has been created by the recent fires. If there is history of fires in any one stand you will be able to see cavities on the uphill side of the trees. Some large enough to stand in.

This is why Kentucky foresters make all the fuss about forest fires. And the landowners should too. They are the ones that, even though they might be able to sell their timber in the year to come, the value of the timber will be greatly diminished if a logger finds evidence of fire in a stand, even decades after a fire, even into this new millennium.

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