Virginia’s fall wildfire season officially begins

dsc00396VIRGINIA – October 15 marked the beginning of wildfire season in Virginia.

The Virginia Department of Forestry says the threat of wildfires increase in the fall due to dried out leaves that fall from trees. The leaves are fuel for the fires, which spread quickly and damage property.

“Weather conditions—wind, humidity and rainfall—directly influence wildfires,” said Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) Director of Emergency Response John Miller. “Although parts of the state received significant precipitation from Hurricane Matthew last weekend, the far Southwest remains dry, increasing the opportunity for fires in that area.”

According to the Department of Forestry, nearly 1,000 wildfires occur in Virginia each year and burn a total of 11,000 acres.

More than 95 percent of the fires are started from human activity. Most fires were caused by people burning trash or yard debris.

State Forester Bettina Ring said, “Whenever possible, practicing alternative debris-disposal, like composting or mulching, can help reduce the chances of accidentally starting a wildfire.  But if those are not options and burning is necessary, being mindful of weather conditions and taking simple precautions can make all the difference in keeping people and their property safe.”

Here are a few safety tips from the Department of Forestry:

  • Clearing the burn spot and surrounding area down to mineral soil
  • Keeping the burn pile small
  • Having tools like a shovel or a rake on hand
  • Ensuring a charged water hose or other water source is at the ready
  • Having a working cell phone with you so that you can call 911 immediately if the fire escapes your control
  • Do not leave the fire unattended and make sure it is totally extinguished before leaving