Emergency Preparedness News and Announcements

Wildland/Forest Fire



Kentucky is particularly susceptible to wildland fires because nearly half of the state is covered by forest. Also, the percentage of watershed acreage has declined steadily over the decades depleting over 80% of original wetlands.

Kentucky’s state borders include 12.4 million acres (48% of total land mass) of forest. Kentucky’s deciduous vegetation makes wildland fires a significant and growing threat particularly in eastern regions. The KY Department of Natural Resources Division of Forestry manages wildfires, assisted by local and state fire departments.

During the spring and fall Forest Fire Hazard Seasons, it is unlawful to burn within 150 feet of a woodland or brush land boundary between 6:00 am – 6:00 pm:

  • February 15 – May 30
  • October 1 – December 15

Information adapted from the Kentucky Division of Forestry.

Immediate Action

  1. Contact Emergency Manager and First Responders.
  2. Secure windows and doors.
  3. Remain calm to not disturb the residents.

Common Staff Responsibilities

  1. Evacuate residents according to the size of the fire and the volume of smoke production. The Incident Commander will give guidance on evacuation type.
    1. Phase I: Move residents to an area away from the fire. This type of evacuation should be used during the initial stages of a small fire.
    2. Phase II: Evacuate all residents from the smoke compartment where the fire has occurred to the opposite smoke compartment (through the smoke doors). This type of evacuation should be used when moderate smoke conditions are present or the welfare of the residents is in jeopardy based on the situation.
    3. Phase III: FIRE DEPARTMENT ORDERED EVACUATION. Evacuate all residents from the building by whatever means possible. This type of evacuation should only be used during a major fire or severe smoke conditions within the building as ordered by the Fire Department.
  2. Determine the order of evacuation by resident type. Examples are:
    1. Ambulatory residents
    2. Residents with assistive devices
    3. Residents in wheelchairs
    4. Bedridden residents

Specific Staff Responsibilities

  1. Administrator/Incident Commander
    1. Communicate with local authorities to determine risk.
    2. Initiate NIMS/Incident Command Center.
    3. Initiate rapid decision-making regarding implementation of wildland fire plan.
    4. Consider continuity of care implications due to a loss of power
    5. Shut down air intakes to prevent smoke from entering facility.
    6. Determine whether evacuation is necessary, and if so, according to what timeframe.
    7. Utilize appropriate sections of the Kentucky LTC Emergency Preparedness Manual to manage the incident as needed.
  2. Management Staff of All Departments
    1. Report to Incident CommandCenter.
    2. Secure windows, doors and any areas where smoke could enter.
    3. Activate the facility’s communications plan with:
      1. State, regional and local emergency managers
      2. Residents, family members, resident representatives
      3. Residents and staff currently off-site
      4. Facilities with agreements for evacuation
      5. Internal and external radios/auxiliary phones
  3. Director of Nursing
    1. Coordinate operations with the Incident Commander to determine the potential for shelter-in-place or evacuation.
    2. Prepare nursing staff to gather required medical and personal supplies to prepare for evacuation.
    3. Instruct Certified Nursing Assistants to remain with residents in an attempt to keep them calm.
    4. Perform a complete resident head count.
    5. Prepare for loss of power in regards to safety and continuity of care
  4. Nursing Staff
    1. Report to the area of fire alarm activation.
    2. Initiate Evacuation Procedures.
    3. Close all doors and windows, as residents are evacuated.
    4. Connect O2 concentrators to all residents requiring oxygen.
    5. Shut off oxygen or other medical gasses that could contribute to the spread of the fire.
    6. Secure medical records.
    7. Perform a complete resident head count.
    8. Prepare “go bags” for residents.
    9. Be prepared to assist where needed at the direction of the Incident Commander and/or Fire Department.
  5. Maintenance Personnel
    1. Assist the Fire Department in whatever way required.
    2. Prepare back-up generators in case of loss of power
    3. Ensure that the appropriate Evacuation Procedures are in progress and attempt to control the fire if required.
    4. Attempt to de-power the fire (if active) by shutting down circuit breakers for the fire area.
    5. NEVER shut down the fire sprinkler system during a fire. The shutting down of the fire sprinkler system must be ordered by the Fire Department.
  6. All Staff
    1. Prepare for loss of power and impact on resident continuity of care
    2. Review plan elements in regards to severe cold/heat in case of power outages
    3. FIRE DEPARTMENT ORDERED EVACUATION. Evacuate all residents from the building by whatever means possible. This type of evacuation should only be used during a major fire or severe smoke conditions within the building or surrounding area as ordered by the Fire Department.

Planning Ahead/Training

To limit the potential of damage/destruction due to wildland fires Long-Term Care Facilities must:

  1. Assess the potential of wildland fire risk when completing the initial and annual risk assessments
  2. Create defensible space around all structures
    1. Defensible space is a double circle that surrounds buildings and determines the likelihood of a facility surviving a wildland fire. Defensible space that is clear of combustible materials reduces the chance of wildland fires moving across the property and up to the walls of a building.
    2. Two zones make up the defensible space.
    3. The inner circle (zone 1) extends 30 feet from the structures, decks, buildings
      • Remove all dead plants, grass and weeds
      • Remove dead or dry leaves and pine needles from the yard, roof, gutters
      • Trim trees regularly to create a distance of at least 10 feet between trees
      • Remove branches that hang over the roof and keep dead branches at least 10 feet from chimneys
      • Remove or prune flammable plants and shrubs near windows
      • Remove vegetation and items that could catch fire from around and under decks
      • Create a separation between trees, shrubs and items that could catch fire, such as patio furniture and planters
    4. The outer circle (zone 2) extends 100 feet from the structure.
      • Cut or mow annual grass to a maximum height of 4 inches
      • Create horizontal spacing between shrubs and trees
        1. Horizontal space is dependent on the slope of land and the height of trees or shrubs
        2. The greater the slope and taller the shrub or tree, the greater the distance between the two
      • Create vertical spacing between grass, shrubs and trees
        1. Remove all tree branches so that the lowest branches are 6 feet (or higher) from the ground
        2. Allow extra vertical space between shrubs and trees. Lack of vertical space can allow a fire to move from ground to brush to tree tops like a ladder
        3. To determine how much space is required between a shrub and the lowest limbs of a tree, measure the height of the shrub and multiply by three. This is the required distance between the shrub and the lowest tree branch.
    5. Remove fallen leaves, needles, twigs, bark, cones and small branches. A depth of 3 inches or less is not problematic.
  3. Document a strategy to contain or remove on-site hazardous materials
  4. If located in a high-risk area, consider performing a community-based or facility-based wildland fire exercise to complete one of the two CMS required annual emergency preparedness training exercises
  5. Keep abreast of weather-related risks during the Forest Fire Hazard Seasons and anytime drought conditions are present
  6. Monitor forestry.ky.gov/wildlandfiremanagement for updated information about potential wildland fires.

Go to http://www.readyforwildfire.org/Defensible-Space/ for training materials provided through CAL FIRE, the Dept. of Forestry and Fire Protection at CA.gov

See Also

evacuation, fire, severe heat, shelter-in-place, utility outage