Tribune-Courier News Editor
BENTON — The ongoing drought means a greater danger of fire with Fourth of July fireworks and ongoing hardship for west Kentucky farmers.
Todd Divine, assistant fire chief for the Palma-Briensburg Fire Department, advised revelers to keep a bucket of water handy to extinguish any blazes ignited by firework embers. He recommended skipping fireworks all-together and leaving displays to professionals.
“One bottle rocket landing in the grass could cause a field fire,” Divine said.
Divine said the ongoing drought has left underbrush extremely dry. Fire risks remain high. He admonished parents to provide supervision when children use fireworks. For campers, he recommended a good raking around fire pits. This will move dry and flammable vegetation away from the fire. When done with a campfire, he advised campers to pour water on any remaining embers and stir it about. Remaining embers can last as long as 8 to 10 hours.
“This year, we’ve had several fires started from flicking cigarettes out the window,” Divine said. “It catches the median on fire. All cars have ash trays. Use them.”
Divine called this year’s drought one of the worst he’s seen. While conditions are generally dry through the summer, he described the present dry conditions as some of the earliest he’s seen in the season.
“This could be a bad fire season,” Divine said.
Lincoln Martin, Marshall County agricultural extension agent, said the drought is proving dire for west Kentucky farmers.
“Things are starting to look pretty bleak,” Martin said. “I spoke to one tobacco producer, and he said he is already using drip irrigation. He’s using a pond as his source, and it’s about dry.”
Martin said corn plants have twisted with dehydration. At this point, plants are approaching pollination. Extremely hot and dry conditions can kill pollen, leaving plants unable to produce cobs.
Livestock producers are already culling their herds, Martin said. Hay producers have not been able to cut since spring. At this point, conservation lands have not been opened to cutting but requests continue.
“People do not need to be burning waste outdoors or flipping cigarettes out the window. It’s that dry. I’m not terribly optimistic about the extended forecast,” Martin said.
Robin “Smitty” Smith, forecaster for the National Weather Service in Paducah, described conditions as a severe drought. Perhaps even more dire, forecasts do not call for rain any time soon.
“We may have a front come through Saturday, and that brings a 20 to 30 percent chance of rain,” Smith said. “We might see a quarter-inch, if we’re lucky.”
Smith said the month could be the fifth-driest June on record, and is 2.35 inches below the month’s average. For the year, precipitation is 12.88 inches below annual average.
“I really don’t see any other chances for rain at this time,” Smith said. “Some rain would be nice for a change.”