Forest fires threaten state park cabins

March 15, 2014

Fire crews from throughout Bell County were battling blazes in Pine Mountain State Park Saturday afternoon which threatened cabins and other facilities.

Units from the Kentucky Division of Forestry, the state park, Bell County Emergency Management, and fire departments from Bell County, Frakes, Middlesboro and Pineville were in the park fighting what was reported as several fires, possibly as many as seven, according to one park official.

A spokesman for the forestry department’s regional office in Hazard reported there were 50 active fires on Saturday, stretching the agency’s crews as well as those of fire officials in various communities.

Tyler Pursiful, an assistant chief for the Bell County Fire Department, said “there were a bunch” of fires in the park 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 assist if needed. “We have everybody up there,” said the dispatcher as he continued to assist with dispatching appropriate personnel.

Park officials closed one entrance to the park as the blazes were close to the road and visible from U.S. 25E, drawing the attention of passing motorists.

Gil Lawson, a spokesman for the state parks, said crews were successful in preventing damages to cabins and other structures and no injuries were reported.

He said the lodge was open late Saturday afternoon.

One official said the blazes had to be the work of an arsonist as “there were so many in such a short time.”