Fall wildfire season begins this weekend

Published 1:04 pm Saturday, October 14, 2017

Fall wildfire season in Virginia begins on Sunday and runs through Nov. 30. The Virginia Department of Forestry asks residents to be extra careful with anything such as matches, campfires, bonfires, mechanical equipment, etc. that could cause a wildfire during this time.

Hot, dry and windy conditions have fueled a number of wildfires that have wreaked havoc in California this week, and the Virginia Department of Forestry has all of its emergency response equipment and personnel in an increased state of readiness. A quick response to a wildfire will help decrease the possibility of that fire becoming large and disastrous. Local fire departments will work closely with the VDOF to protect the citizens, property and resources of the Commonwealth, but they can’t do it alone.  Wildfire prevention is still the best option.

“Before the rain this week, it had been more than 30 days since any measurable precipitation fell on the Commonwealth,” said Fred Turck, VDOF’s wildfire prevention manager. “That has us very concerned because when things are very dry they tend to burn much more quickly.  And that makes battling a resulting wildfire that much harder and puts lives and property at risk,” he said.

Because more than 96 percent of wildfires in Virginia are caused by human activity, most can be prevented if people take care to ensure their debris burning or campfire doesn’t escape their control.

People burning trash or debris remains the number one cause of wildfires in Virginia.

“Weather plays a critical role in wildfire,” Turck said.  “Before you light your fire, make sure winds are less than 15 miles per hour and that the relative humidity level is above 35 percent.  If the conditions aren’t right, please don’t ignite.”

Fall is the time when some people burn their downed leaves, but there is an alternative — they make excellent mulch for your yard or garden.  If you do have to burn: keep your pile small; have a rake or shovel on hand; keep a charged water hose nearby, and have a phone accessible to call 911 if the fire escapes your control.

“Stay with your fire until it is completely out, and remember that ashes can retain enough heat to ignite a fire for as many as a couple of days,” Turck said.

While there isn’t a 4 p.m. Burn Law in effect statewide during the fall, be sure to check with your local fire officials for any local restrictions or bans.

The Virginia Department of Forestry protects and develops healthy, sustainable forest resources for Virginians. Headquartered in Charlottesville, the Agency has forestry staff members assigned to every county to provide citizen service and public safety protection across the Commonwealth, which it’s been doing now for over 100 years.