Fall fire season begins Oct. 15

As temperatures begin to dip and the leaves on the trees begin to change color, it’s time once again for the start of fall wildfire season in the Commonwealth.  Officials at the Virginia Department of Forestry remind all Virginians that the threat of wildfire increases each autumn as leaves dry out and fall from trees, grasses turn brown, humidity levels drop and winds increase.

“Wildfires are directly linked to weather conditions,” said John Miller, director of resource protection at VDOF.  “Whether it’s someone burning debris or trash, an unattended campfire, or an intentional case of arson, wildfires have a greater chance of causing bodily harm or property damage in the fall and spring months because the conditions are right for fires to burn hotter and spread faster.”

Because of the increased risk of wildfires, the VDOF has joined paid and volunteer fire departments in their efforts to ensure the safety of Virginia’s citizens.  This year’s focus of National Fire Prevention Week (Oct. 7 – 13) is to ensure you have at least two escape routes both in your home and in your neighborhood.

“Because your primary escape route might be blocked during a fire, having an alternate escape route could save your life,” said Miller.  “While many people may have thought about a secondary way out of their homes, it’s highly likely that most have not given the same thought to an alternate way out of their neighborhoods.

“If you live on a cul-de-sac or in an area where there is only one road in and out, would you know how to safely evacuate in the event that one road is blocked?  And are you prepared to evacuate on foot if there’s no way out with your vehicle?  These are potentially life or death questions,” Miller said.  “We recommend that every Virginian take a few moments to consider their options and to discuss those options with their family members so that everyone can get out alive. And if an evacuation order is given, those people with only one way in and out should leave immediately and not risk getting trapped.”

Each year, Virginia experiences more than 1,200 wildfires that burn more than 10,000 acres of land.  VDOF employees annually protect hundreds of homes from the ravages of wildfires, but each year there are always some homes that are destroyed by these wildfires.

Miller said, “As more than 95 percent of wildfires that occur in Virginia are the result of human activity, taking even the simplest precautions with outdoor fires will significantly reduce the occurrence of wildfires and the threat to you and your neighbors.”

To learn more about what you can do to reduce the risk of wildfires, visit www.dof.virginia.gov or www.firewisevirginia.org


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