March 15, 2014
Kentucky State Police continues to investigate three fires suspected to be the work of an arsonist that broke at about the same time within Pine Mountain State Park on Saturday.
Gil Lawson, a spokesman for the state park system, said the fires were reported about 10 a.m. in different locations within the park.
Lawson said approximately 50 firefighters fought the blazes, successfully preventing damages to cabins and other facilities.
At least two occupied cabins were evacuated as a precautionary measure, Lawson said.
Fire crews from throughout Bell County helped battle the blazes and managed to get the blazes contained Saturday evening.
Lawson said the lodge, restaurant and other facilities are open.
Park officials closed some of the roads within the park for safety reasons on Saturday.
No injuries were reported.
Units from the Kentucky Division of Forestry, Cumberland Gap National Historical Park, Bell County Emergency Management, and fire departments from Bell County, Frakes, Middlesboro and Pineville responded to help contain the blazes. Park staff also fought the blazes.
Tyler Pursiful, an assistant chief for the Bell County Fire Department, said “there were a bunch” of fires in Bell County as he joined other firefighters near the famed Chain Rock as forestry crews worked feverishly to secure fire lines and stop that particular blaze from spreading.
A spokesman for the Bell County dispatch center reported that fire departments in Harlan County were on standby to provide mutual aid if needed.
“We have everybody up there,” said the dispatcher as he continued to assist with dispatching appropriate personnel during the afternoon.
One firefighter had stated earlier in the day that the blazes had to be the work of an arsonist because, “there were so many in such a short time.”
Bell County Emergency Manager Ben Barnett said there were at least 14 fires started in Bell County throughout the day on Saturday.
“I’m extremely proud of our emergency services and the way they came out and worked together,” said Barnett. “I can’t say enough how proud of all our emergency services I am and the way they came together to protect life and property of the Bell County people.”
A spokesman for the forestry department’s regional office in Hazard reported there were 50 active fires in the southeast region on Saturday, which stretched the agency’s crews as well as those of fire officials in various communities.
The southeast region includes Bell, Breathitt, Clay, Floyd, Harlan, Jackson, Knott, Knox, Laurel, Lee, Leslie, Letcher, Owsley, Pike, Perry and Whitley counties.
Crews also battled a fire at Stoney Fork in Bell County Saturday afternoon.
To report a forest fire all the regional office at 800- 866-0503 or 606-435-6073 or your local fire or police agency.