Virginia wildfire crews battling multiple blazes

forestry12The Short Hills Fire in Botetourt County continues to be the most significant and difficult to suppress wildfire currently burning in Virginia. The fire that started on Monday and quickly grew to almost 125 acres by that evening due to the rough terrain and Red Flag Warning weather conditions of high winds, low humidity and dry fuels. As of this morning the fire now covers over 450 acres and it is anticipated to be nearly 1,000 acres when it is finally suppressed. In addition to this fire, there were 29 additional wildfires which burned 580 acres yesterday.

As part of the suppression effort, the Virginia Department of Forestry under the direction of Incident Commanders Denny McCarthy and Steve Counts, are planning what is referred to as a burning out operation late this afternoon or early evening. Denny McCarthy said “burning-out is an operation where we actually set fires to unburned fuel between the main fire and the firelines constructed by the bulldozers, to speed fire containment. It is an important part of the suppression effort, completed under very specific conditions and the watchful eye or I should say eyes of the firefighters”.

John Miller, the Virginia Department of Forestry Director of Resource Protection, said “this one fire has stretched our resources; we moved both personnel and equipment to this fire to assist in the 24 hour per day operation from all across Virginia.”

The backfiring or burning out operation will be very visible once it begins and will last for several hours. Folks traveling on I-81 will be able to see lots of smoke and actual fire especially when the sun sets. Citizens in the area are asked to NOT attempt to go “sightseeing” especially in areas that would interfere with the suppression actions.

Spring wildfire season (Feb. 15 to April 30) is in full swing now, and officials at the VDOF remind everyone that outdoor burning is allowed only between 4 p.m. and midnight.

Ed Stoots, Regional Forester for the Western Region of the Virginia Department of Forestry wants to remind everyone that “they should not let their guard down just because the winds have diminished; conditions are still favorable for fires to get out of control and quickly become yet another significant wildfire.” If you have any outdoor burning to do please wait till after it rains (hopefully Friday) and even then make sure you obey the state and local burning restrictions. Keep your fires small, have water and tools nearby and most importantly if your fire escapes call 911 immediately and let the fire department and Department of Forestry do what they are trained and equipped to do.

For information and tips about wildfire safety and the proper disposal of hot ashes, please visit www.dof.virginia.gov  or  http://www.dof.virginia.gov/fire/safety/index.htm

 
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