Chris Anderson, The Appalachian News-Express

As several fires continue to burn in wooded areas across Pike County on Thursday, forestry officials said the fires are now under control. According to Tad Norris, the district forester for the Kentucky Division of Forestry’s Eastern District, three woodland fires were burning in Pike County Thursday in areas near Grapevine, Dorton and Elkhorn City. Norris said the fires have been brought under control and have been contained.

One of Pike County’s emergency medical service firms is officially shut down. Questcare EMS officially ceased all business operations effective Dec. 31 and is now slated for liquidation, according to a statement from the company. The announcement also signals the beginning of a void in EMS coverage in Pike County, one which other ambulance services are now attempting to fill.

Prescription drug abuse has dominated news headlines across the state over the last several weeks and new cases are leading officials to believe that more and more cases will be filed against physicians in and around Eastern Kentucky. Officials on both the state and federal level have been busy over the last year in taking action against a number of medical professionals, both in and around Pike County.

A state official said Gov. Steve Beshear was set to announce a partnership on Wednesday which could reverberate throughout the coal industry in Kentucky. State Rep. W. Keith Hall told the News-Express on Tuesday that officials were expected to announce a coal mining partnership between a Kentucky group and the Indian government which could result in as much as 6 million tons of Kentucky coal being shipped to India each year. The partnership, Hall said, is expected to last as long as 25 years.

The announcement Tuesday that the Environmental Protection Agency had been defeated in a federal court case regarding surface coal mining permits has left some within the industry with mixed reactions. Now, those people are waiting to see what impact, if any, the decision may have on the future of coal mining in Central Appalachia and how the EPA may respond.

Pike County Judge-Executive Wayne T. Rutherford’s office has announced that it is working toward establishing the region’s first natural gas filling station along U.S. 119 in Pike County. The announcement comes after Rutherford recently announced the county was requesting funding for the project and comes after Ford Motor Co. and General Motors announced in March they were investing in compressed natural gas, or CNG, technology.

As Pike County officials continue to discuss the county’s “dire” financial situation, a bold suggestion from a Pike magistrate to help alleviate some of the strain seems to have fallen on deaf ears. At Tuesday’s meeting of the Pike County Fiscal Court, District 5 Magistrate Hilman Dotson, while arguing that the county’s currently idled swimming pools should be reopened, suggested that he and other county officials take a pay cut to help ease some of the financial burden the county is facing ahead of a projected multi-million-dollar budget shortfall in the coming year. Dotson’s suggested 10 percent pay reduction for county officials found little support among other court officials.

The war of words over coal severance funds for Pike County is heating up as officials paint a bleak picture of how the county may suffer if recently proposed funding allocations are not reconsidered. State lawmakers, however, are challenging the county to tighten its belt and avoid making "heartburn"-inducing requests.

Coal truck traffic is causing major problems on some Pike County roads, officials said this week. At Tuesday’s meeting of the Pike County Fiscal Court, court members voted unanimously to declare a state of emergency on a pair of state highways in Pike County, in part because the volume of coal truck traffic on the narrow, winding highways is creating a traffic hazard.

Chris Anderson/Appalachian News-Express

A tanker truck carrying explosive agents crashed into a Pike County creek this week, prompting an evacuation of nearby residents. According to Kentucky State Police Officer Jamie Fields, no one was injured Monday when the tanker truck, driven by Karl Ashley and operated by Kentucky Powder Company, crashed off of Little Robinson Creek Road and came to rest on its side in the creek. The crash caused the truck to spill about a third of its load of a powdery mix of ammonium nitrate and diesel fuel — an agent commonly used in blasting at mining and construction sites.

Chris Anderson/Appalachian News-Express

As police officers from across Kentucky and parts of West Virginia fought back tears, the last call for a public servant who was killed in the line of duty was given, just days after his death. Pike County Sheriff’s Deputy James Ireland Thacker was laid to rest on an overcast Friday afternoon in front of family, friends and nearly 200 fellow police officers from all across Kentucky, as well as some from West Virginia. More than 300 people attended a memorial service for Thacker at East Ridge High School.

As officials continue to investigate a crash which killed a Pike County Sheriff’s deputy on Monday, support continues to pour in for the fallen officer, his family and the department which he served. Pike County Sheriff Charles “Fuzzy” Keesee said Tuesday that his department has received numerous calls offering support from agencies across the state in the wake of the death of Sheriff’s Deputy James Ireland Thacker, 53, who was killed in a nighttime crash on U.S. 460 at Road Creek.

Chris Anderson/Appalachian News-Express

Pike County Schools officials believe arson may be to blame for a Thursday morning fire which gutted a school bus at Turkey Creek. Pike Schools Superintendent Roger Wagner said the bus, number 0369, was parked in its normal overnight space near the bus driver’s residence when a fire broke out inside the vehicle at about 6 a.m. Thursday. The bus was unoccupied at the time of the fire and no one was injured in the blaze, Wagner said, adding that he believes the fire was no accident.

Chris Smiley / Appalachian News-Express

When Suzie Harvill asked her parents to welcome her black, South African boyfriend into their Island Creek home for a visit, the traditional baptist couple was reluctant. More than a year later, however, the couple considers the young man a part of their family and have now vowed to stand by he and Suzie in a battle that has pitted them against elders in the Harvill’s Pike County church — a battle which may also have lasting repercussions on the church’s financial status.

A pair of economic development projects are moving forward in Pikeville and city officials believe the projects’ impact on the region will be “huge.” At a meeting Monday of the Pikeville City Commission, city officials approved the sale of property to pave the way for a shopping development in the area along Thompson Road behind the Pikeville Walmart Supercenter. Pikeville City Manager Donovan Blackburn said the proposed shopping development will result in the creation of about 400 jobs and will further establish Pikeville as a retail hub in the region.

A pair of economic development projects are moving forward in Pikeville and city officials believe the projects’ impact on the region will be “huge.” At a meeting Monday of the Pikeville City Commission, city officials approved the sale of property to pave the way for a shopping development in the area behind the Pikeville Walmart. Meanwhile, it was also announced at the meeting that a Hilton Garden Inn hotel will be built in downtown Pikeville.

As Pike County officials continue to celebrate strides toward establishing commercial air service at the Pikeville-Pike County Airport, Congressman Hal Rogers chose instead to focus on the state of the coal industry during a visit to Pikeville this week. At an event at the University of Pikeville on Wednesday, Rogers vowed to “reign in” the Environmental Protection Agency and to continue to resist the Obama Administration’s “war on coal.”

A Pikeville woman is facing felony charges after corrections officers allegedly found her to be in possession of more that three dozen pills in the Pike County Detention Center. Pike Commonwealth’s Attorney Rick Bartley said the charges against Shellie Duncan, 35, are part of a “steady stream” of promoting contraband cases. Bartley said his office takes the cases very seriously and those caught with drugs in jail are often made examples for other inmates who may try to sneak drugs into the jail.

A new taste of the night life has come to the East Kentucky Expo Center, but at least one local business owner has been left with a bitter taste in her mouth. The Expo Center’s new dance club, “Club Extreme,” opened Thursday and offered drinking and dancing to a 21-and-over crowd. Pikeville City Manager Donovan Blackburn announced the establishment of the club during a recent city commission work session at the University of Pikeville.