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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Spring Wildfire Season ..... Vigilance a lesson to be learned.

Below is a news release referencing Virginia's upcomming Spring Wildfire Season. With all the recent snows and rain wildfires are NOT on many of your minds, But PLEASE be vigilant, learn what you can do to prevent a wildfire from starting, learn when and how you can safely burn and learn how you can help protect your home and property from wildfires. 
Check Out the following sites ....

Outdoor Fires Unlawful Before 4 p.m.
The Commonwealth’s 4 p.m. Burning Law goes into effect Feb. 15th – the start of spring fire season in Virginia. The law prohibits burning before 4 p.m. each day until April 30th if the fire is in, or within 300 feet of, woodland, brushland or fields containing dry grass or other flammable materials.
“This law is one of the most effective tools we have in the prevention of wildfires,” said John Miller, director of resource protection at the Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF). “Each late winter and early spring, downed trees, branches and leaves become ‘forest fuels’ that increase the danger of a forest fire. By adhering to the law and not burning before 4 p.m., people are less likely to start a fire that threatens them, their property and the forests of Virginia.”
A violation of this law is a Class 3 misdemeanor punishable by up to a $500 fine. In addition to the criminal violation, those who allow a fire to escape are liable for the cost of suppressing the fire as well as any damage caused to others’ property.
In 2010, there were 897 wildfires that burned 8,485 acres of forestland in the Commonwealth. This was a seven percent increase in the number of wildland fires compared to the number (837) of fires in 2009. Similarly, the amount of acreage burned increased 13 percent when compared to 7,494 acres that burned in 2009.
Miller said, “At this time, the long-range forecasts are for a normal to slightly drier spring, with normal to slightly above normal temperatures. We can generally count on a couple of passing dry cold fronts in the spring that bring strong winds on the heels of zero precipitation. Under these weather conditions, and drought conditions on the ground, we could potentially see increased fire risk.”
To learn more about how to protect yourself and your property, visit
The Virginia Department of Forestry protects and develops healthy, sustainable forest resources for Virginians. Headquartered in Charlottesville, the Agency has forestry staff members assigned to every county to provide service to citizens of the Commonwealth. VDOF is an equal opportunity provider.
With nearly 16 million acres of forestland and more than 144,000 Virginians employed in forestry, forest products and related industries, Virginia forests provide more than $27.5 Billion annually in benefits to the Commonwealth.

I went back into the archives and pulled several "headlines" from springtime fires here in Virginia, from 1988 to 2005. Many of these spring fires followed a wet or so called normal winter. Things dry out and change rather quickly in the spring.

1988…. “Yesterday we had 18 fires that burned 158 acres," said John Graff, chief of fire management at the department's headquarters in Charlottesville. "We had four more this morning that burned 34 acres."

1995    A 1,200-acre fire that burned through dry loblolly and white pine forests near Norwood in southern Nelson County awed veteran firefighters with its intensity.
In Page County, a 200-acre fire brought under control Tuesday near Stanley may have led to another fire that burned 450 acres one-quarter mile away before it was contained late yesterday. Flames leapt as high as 200 feet. The fire could be seen for miles as it crept in a wide, smoky sweep up Dovell Mountain.
A third forest fire broke out in Clarke County about 3 p.m. yesterday when a house burned down and set off wildfires, said Dusty McIntosh of the Front Royal Fire Department. Fred Burlingame, chief forest warden for Frederick and Clarke counties, set a backfire that stopped the fire from sweeping into a dozen woodland homes. The fire burned about 20 acres.

1995… Fires pushed by strong winds blackened more than 1,100 acres of dead, dry forest in western Virginia yesterday, threatening houses and presaging what officials fear will be a long fire season.

Limbs felled by ice storms in 1994 and 1995 could provide fuel for forest fires, especially if Virginia gets a prolonged dry spell or people burning trash become careless, Forestry Department spokesman Lou Southard said.
Southard said a state law restricting trash burning was changed this year in hopes of cutting down on forest fires. The law prohibits burning before 4 p.m. between Feb. 15 and April 30. Before it was changed by the General Assembly, the restriction was in effect from March 1 to May 15.
"On a 20-year average, we found there were 60 percent more fires and 75 percent more acres burned in February than in May," Southard said. He said it is better to burn trash in the evening because humidity generally is higher and winds calmer.
A spectacular forest fire whipped up the west side of Afton Mountain yesterday afternoon, forcing the evacuation of about 15 homes, forest officials said.
The blaze began about 3:30 p.m. at the base of the mountain near a subdivision in Augusta County and had burned between 75 and 100 acres by nightfall. The cause of the fire was not immediately known. No one was injured.

1999….. Fires cropped up from the Abingdon area in the state's southwest to forests near the Quantico Marine Corps base within 50 miles of Washington, said Lou Southard, fire chief for the Virginia Department of Forestry.
The most troubling fire was in Fauquier County, where about 1,000 acres near the sprawling Marine base burned before the blaze was controlled last night. Nineteen families were evacuated as the fire raced across open fields and tree lines, Sheriff Joe Higgs said. About 200 firefighters from five counties battled the blaze, some of whom stayed on the scene overnight to make sure the fire did not re- ignite, Higgs said.

APPALACHIA - State Department of Forestry crews contained a series of forest fires in southwest Virginia in an early start to the annual forest fire season.
Up to a dozen fires have broken out each day since last weekend and have consumed a total of 2,025 acres, said Chuck Hutsell, acting regional forester.
The largest of the fires, involving 700 acres in Buchanan County, was believed to be arson, Mr. Hutsell said yesterday.

2005     Virginia Department of Forestry officials are using a helicopter to battle a 150-acre forest fire in Franklin County today.
Franklin County Public Safety Director Chris Slemp said the fire broke out Wednesday afternoon on Turkey Cock Mountain in the Snow Creek area of the county. Officials believe lightning might have sparked the blaze because a storm rolled through that area about an hour before a citizen reported seeing smoke about 4:30 p.m.
The fire is not expected to threaten any homes, Slemp said.
It took Franklin County firefighters about 90 minutes to reach the fire because the terrain on the mountain is so rough. At 6:40 p.m. Wednesday, county firefighters were ordered to retreat because the fire was spreading rapidly, Slemp said.
The Virginia Department of Forestry sent a helicopter to drop water on the blaze Wednesday night and this morning. Their firefighters have taken over the fire with assistance from a few Franklin County volunteers, officials said.

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