Kentucky forest rangers examine training to minimize danger - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Kentucky forest rangers examine training to minimize danger

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CAMPBELLSVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Kentucky forest rangers say they'll take a close look at their own training following the deaths of 19 wildfire fighters in Arizona.

It's been nearly three years since a Kentucky forest ranger died from injuries sustained while battling a wildfire. But the Arizona tragedy is a reminder that it can happen at any time.

"You think of what if it would have been me on that detail," said Kentucky forest ranger Seth Dykes. 

Dykes has fought wildfires from Idaho to North Carolina. He says the biggest danger is always the unknown.

"There's always mother nature that can come in and change what you think is going to happen in a matter of a few seconds," he said.

Though Dykes does not know all the details of the Arizona tragedy, experience tells him the problem was likely a shift in winds.

"You can predict and study fire behavior and the known dangers of the specific fire you're on. But at any time, the weather is a big factor," said Dykes.

"We do our best to keep people trained, on their toes. A situation like this does make you take a close look at what you're doing and that you're not becoming complacent," said Regional Forester James Wright.

Wildfires in Kentucky are most often ground fires and don't usually jump to the tops of trees as they do out west. But that does not minimize the danger.

"Because a lot of our folks are in the mountains of east Kentucky which, obviously, are very conducive to wildfires, but in addition provide a lot of dangers with the steepness of the terrain, the ability to possibly become entrapped such as these firefighters did out west," said Wright.

And despite some close calls, Dykes says he couldn't imagine doing anything else.

"You depend on the good Lord to take care of you and your family, and do your best to do a good job and stay safe," he said.

So, despite the danger, these rangers say they're prepared to go wherever they're needed; from Eastern Kentucky to Western Arizona.

Copyright 2013 WDRB News. All rights reserved.

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