Wildfire activity in Virginia intensifies Easter weekend

forestry12While many people were watching children hunt for Easter eggs, firefighters with the Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) were busy over the weekend battling wildfire activity in the western portion of Virginia.

At least six significant wildfires were reported in the counties of Buchanan, Scott, Dickenson and Russell since Saturday.  These fires are threatening at least 60 structures, according to VDOF officials.  While all six are still actively burning, three of the fires have been completely contained.  Wildland fire crews are working diligently to contain the remaining three large blazes.

John Miller, VDOF’s director of resource protection, said, “Warm temperatures, low relative humidity and strong winds combined to increase wildfire danger over the weekend in the western portion of the Commonwealth.  So far, these six fires have burned a total of more than 1,000 acres.  Our VDOF crews have worked with a number of local fire departments to suppress these wildfires thereby protecting the lives and property of the residents of these four counties.”

There have been more wildfires (550) in the first 111 days of this year than occurred in all of last year (479).  And the acres burned so far this year (8,491) are 2.5 times greater than the acres burned all of last year (3,378).

Three of this weekend’s fires are in Buchanan County.  The Deel Hill Road fire near Vansant has burned 200 acres and is 95 percent contained.  Fifteen structures are threatened; one home has been damaged and one structure lost.  The Home Creek fire in Isaac’s Branch Road has burned 400 acres and is 80 percent contained.  Ten structures are threatened.  Fifty-five acres were burned in the Guesses Fork Road fire, which has been completely contained.

In Russell County, the Sandy Ridge fire has burned 300 acres and is 20 percent contained.  Ten structures are threatened.

In Scott County, 80 acres were burned in the Hunters Valley Road West fire.  The VDOF partnered with the US Forest Service to completely contain this fire.

In Dickenson County, the Cold Springs Road fire near Nora, Va., burned 55 acres but has been 100 percent contained.

The causes of these fires are under investigation by the VDOF.

Miller said, “As the days become longer and warmer, more people are out cleaning up their yards and preparing their gardens.  Some of them choose to burn their debris piles, but we wish to remind these folks of the 4 p.m. Burn Law that remains in effect through April 30.  No open burning within 300 feet of woodland or dry grass may be conducted until after 4 p.m. each day from February 15th through April 30th each year.  Even if someone can legally burn after 4 p.m., we recommend doing so only if the weather conditions are right (high relative humidity and low – under 10 mph – winds).”

To learn more about safe debris burning, visit the VDOF website at dof.virginia.gov.

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