Home Experts on wildfires: Swift action, rainfall helped Virginia counties ‘dodge a dire outcome’
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Experts on wildfires: Swift action, rainfall helped Virginia counties ‘dodge a dire outcome’

Crystal Graham
(© Fernando Astasio Avila – Shutterstock)

A group of experts from George Mason University say Virginians need to be prepared for increasing wildfires as the climate continues to change.

The scientists said the Page and Shenandoah county wildfires should be a “wake-up call” for Virginia and the Eastern Seaboard of the increasing threat of wildfires.

In the case of the Page and Shenandoah county wildfires, “swift actions from emergency managers and first responders, complemented by fortunate rainfall, helped dodge a dire outcome,” said Alireza Ermagun, director of the Mobility Observatory and Data Analytics Lab and an assistant professor in the Department of Geography and Geoinformation Science.

Nevertheless, “the fires brought severe air pollution to northwestern Virginia,” said Daniel Tong, associate professor of atmospheric chemistry and aerosols in the Department of Atmospheric, Oceanic and Earth Sciences.

The scientists said this alarm bell points to the need for building resilience, solidifying emergency preparedness and planning for evacuation, particularly for vulnerable populations including those with disabilities or without private transportation.

Early detection measures will help, as will making the population more aware of this increasing threat.

“There have been few wildfires in Virginia over the last two decades, but the risk of wildfires has been increasing due to extreme weather and climate events caused by climate change,” said John Qu, director of Mason’s Environmental Science and Technology Center.

Crystal Graham

Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked for nearly 25 years as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.