March 13, 2006
Dry and windy conditions outside are prompting officials to make residents aware of fire dangers.
Strong winds, high temperatures, and a lack of rain over the past several weeks make for a bad combination when it comes to fires, and a lot of trouble for fire crews.
"The wind and the dryness are the two main reasons why fires escape," said resource protection coordinator with the Virginia Department of Forestry, Fred Turck. "The wind stirs up the ashes and can actually blow a spark a day or two after they leave the fire."
The conditions have most likely fueled several brushfires recently, like one Monday in Crozet and another two along Baker and Grove Streets in Charlottesville Sunday. In fact, about six blazes sparked in our area over the weekend.
Officials are asking Albemarle County residents and others in surrounding counties to pay attention to the burn ban, which restricts outside burning until 4 p.m. or after.
"And the main thing there, when you do leave the fire, make sure it's out. Use plenty of water and shovel to turn it over. Make sure it's really cold," said Turck.
Charlottesville residents however do not have an option to burn at any time.
"There is no open air burning in the city at all. 365 days a year," said Battalion Chief Pete Sweeney with the Charlottesville Fire Department. "No trash burning. In fact there's no fireworks discharge allowed either. So no open-air fires."
People also need to pay attention to where they throw ashes from chimney debris and cigarettes.
"We have had a fair number of mulch fires with improperly discarded smoking materials," added Sweeney.
Fire and forestry officials are hoping that the promise of rain and cooler temperatures will help ease the conditions that make such a difference between a spark and a fire.
Forestry officials also add that they haven't seen conditions like these in about five years. In order to see some relief from the dryness, our area would have to see a full day of rain.
Meanwhile, the two brushfires Sunday along Grove and Baker are still under investigation, although the fire marshal says they're considered suspicious.