Start of wildfire season: Weather conditions heighten risk


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Gov. Ralph Northam highlighted on Tuesday the start of fall wildfire season in Virginia, which runs from Oct. 15 through Nov. 30 each year.

The Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF), Virginia Department of Emergency Management (VDEM), and Virginia Department of Fire Programs (VDFP) have been ramping up for what could be one of the most severe fire seasons in many years.

“Due to extended periods of below average rainfall, dry weather conditions, and record-high temperatures across our Commonwealth, most of Virginia faces an increased risk of wildfires this fall,” said Northam. “We all have a responsibility to do our part to prevent wildfires, and now is the time for Virginians learn about how they can reduce wildfire risks and ensure the safety of their homes, families, and communities.”

VDOF stresses the importance of taking extreme caution right now with anything that may cause a wildfire. Currently, 39 localities in Virginia have initiated burn bans, and this number is expected to increase if dry conditions persist. Virginians are encouraged to check VDOF’s map for the latest information on active burn bans and should contact their local sheriff or county administrator’s office prior to having any outdoor fire for further details on burning restrictions.

“Because more than 95 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 does not escape their control,” said Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Bettina Ring. “People burning trash or debris remains the number-one cause of wildfires in Virginia. In addition to observing all local burning restrictions, residents can also take a number of steps to help protect property and lives across the state.”

Steps for preventing wildfires and protecting lives and property include:

  • Don’t burn on windy days.
  • Before you light your fire, make sure winds are less than 10 miles per hour and that the relative humidity level is above 35 percent.
  • If the conditions aren’t right, please don’t ignite.
  • Keep your burn piles small.
  • Have water and tools nearby.
  • Never leave your fire unattended.
  • Postpone any burning until conditions improve.
  • If you are burning, and your fire escapes, call 911 immediately.

“The Virginia Department of Emergency Management and Virginia Department of Fire Programs are prepared to support the Virginia Department of Forestry’s efforts to respond to fire emergencies and can provide resources to Virginians who may be impacted by wildfires,” said Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran. “I would also urge the public to take extra precautions during this year’s wildfire season.”

VDOF is working to increase outreach and education about wildfire prevention. This past weekend, a National Wildfire Prevention Education Team was deployed to Southwest Virginia. These resources are provided through the United States Forest Service and bolster the Commonwealth’s efforts to communicate with residents about the risks of wildfires in their communities while urging them to take measures to prevent wildfires.

“As the lead agency in preventing and responding to wildfires in Virginia, VDOF is constantly training and strengthening our staff and resources for fire seasons such as the one we may face this year,” said State Forester Rob Farrell. “Residents play a vital role in preventing wildfires and it is important that people are aware that the threat of wildfires increase in the fall due to dried out leaves that fall from trees which are fuel for the fires.”

For the latest information about wildfire activity in Virginia, including a map of current burn bans, visit VDOF’s website.


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