September 10, 2007
The lack of rainfall is putting local forestry and fire officials on alert. They are bracing for what could be a rough fall fire season.
If you just look around you, you can't help but see how dry it is outside and the dryness makes the area more susceptible to forest fires.
"Things are in a lot more critical condition going into the fall than where they normally would be," said John Miller of the Virginia Department of Forestry.
Virginia's busy fire season usually starts around mid-October. Fire officials are expecting as much as a 50 percent increase in wild fires this season and more intense fires because of the severe dryness.
"We are easily going to start pushing double what our normal average is," said Miller.
The woods are extremely dry because of the combination of no rain, low humidity and an abundance of dry leaves and brush on the forest floor.
"If we don't get a good snowfall in the wintertime this is going to be one of the harder years for us," said James Barber, with Albemarle County Fire & Rescue.
The warning of a drought also means an important fire fighting tool is in short supply.
"In the rural areas, our major source of water comes from ponds and streams. So, some of those ponds have started to dry up," said Barber.
Fire officials say they have planned for that possibility as well as are preparing additional crews and making sure their equipment is ready to respond. However, they are also asking the public to be a little more cautious.
“Keep your fire supervised at all times. Make sure you have your fire contained before you ever get started by raking a line around it, make sure the fuel is away from it and stay with the fire until it is fully under control," said Miller.
When you are making a fire, also pay special attention to where the embers may go," said Barber.
Here are some additional tips for helping prevent wild fires from the Virginia Department of Forestry website: www.dof.virginia.gov.
Fire Safety Precautions: