Fire Restrictions FAQ

The use of campfires, once a necessity for cooking and warmth, is steeped in history and tradition. Some people would not think of camping without a campfire. Yet when condtions warrant, campfire restrictions go into effect that ban campfires. Always obey restrictions - to protect you and the forest from wildfire.

Can I have a campfire in a developed campground?

Yes, campfires are permitted WITHIN Forest Service fire rings at your site.

Forest Service Fire RingAt left is the kind of fire ring found in developed campsites and recreation areas. You can build a fire in these metal rings, even under most campfire bans. They are built to safely confine the fire and are located in areas where flammable materials have been cleared. Remember, however, that you must never leave a campfire unattended, and make sure it's dead out when you leave. Under very dry conditions, wind can pick up, reignite the embers and spread them to dry vegetation on the forest floor and nearby trees.

What about having a fire along the trail or off in the woods in a rock fire ring?

Rock Fire Ring (User-developed)You might find user-developed fire rings in the forest. (see at left). These are usually built of rocks. Under most campfire bans, you MAY NOT build fires in these. They cannot be relied on to safely contain flames. Wind can easily reignite embers and spread sparks to nearby vegetation. Under extraordinary dry conditions, the fire could also escape the ring, follow tree roots and spread underground in the dry forest floor. If you build a fire in a ring like this during a campfire ban, you can be held liable for the cost of suppression if it causes a wildfire. Consider using a camp stove for cooking and a lantern for light and atmosphere. 

How long will the restrictions last? 

Until the Forest Service lifts the ban. State outdoor burning regulations and some county burning bans remain in effect.

As per KRS 149.400, the Kentucky Division of Forestry is responsible for enforcing forest fire hazard seasons.

Kentucky's forest fire hazard seasons are Feb. 15 through April 30 and Oct. 1 through Dec. 15. During forest fire seasons, it is illegal to burn anything between the hours of 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. within 150 feet of any woodland or brushland.  

What if I get caught with a campfire?  

A Forest Service law enforcement officer will write a citation, and you may have to pay a fine of not more than $5,000. Plus, if your escaped campfire causes a wildfire, you can be held responsible for suppression costs.

Why are these restrictions necessary?

Traditionally, most forest fires in Kentucky are started by arsonists. During times of drought, fires could easily be started by campfires. In the past, campers have gotten away with leaving campfires unattended or failing to put them out.

However, sometimes conditions become so dry that these campfires have the potential to start very large, quick-spreading fires.

Fire Causes 2001-2010 from the Kentucky Division of Forestry

Wildfire Causes in Kentucky 10 Year Summary

How can I cook my meals?

Portable stoves using gas, jellied petroleum or pressurized liquid fuel is allowed. A backpacking stove is a great alternate source of heat from the campfire.

Stoves have many benefits over fires:

Samples of Permitted Camp Stoves

  • Fast - stoves have nearly instant, ready-to-cook heat. No waiting for the fire. They also extinguish immediately.
  • Clean - stoves have no smoke and leave no ash or partially-burned wood. They do not create soot on pots.
  • Safe - the risk of wildfire is nearly eliminated with stoves.
  • Consistent - stoves work at nearly any elevation, temperature, and elevation.
  • Learn more at Leave No Trace

Can I burn my yard debris or have a bonfire on my property?

Kentucky's forest fire hazard seasons are Feb. 15 through April 30 and Oct. 1 through Dec. 15. During forest fire seasons, it is illegal to burn anything between the hours of 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. within 150 feet of any woodland or brushland.

ALWAYS find out about burning bans in effect. Contact the Kentucky Division of Forestry at 502-564-4496

View pdf flyer that explains Kentucky's burning regulations during fire season.

Fire Restrictions example poster