Dry Conditions Worry Fire Officials

By: Lisa Ferrari Email
By: Lisa Ferrari Email

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:

  • Have a cleared area at least 30-feet wide around all structures.
  • Homes built in pine forests should have a minimum 75-foot clearance.
  • Have properly designed driveways that will accommodate firefighting equipment.
  • The house address should be clearly displayed.
  • Keep leaves and debris cleared from under decks and porches so that they will not be set on fire by blowing sparks and embers.
  • Roofs should be of fire-resistant materials. Remove pine needles and leaves from the roof and gutters so that they will not be set on fire by blowing sparks and embers.
  • Have outside water spigots and at least 100 feet of garden type hose readily accessible for fire control until the fire department arrives.
  • Should the situation become life-threatening or an evacuation order be given by fire officials, leave immediately and go to the designated evacuation shelter. Do not return until fire officials have given an all-clear message.
  • Dispose of ashes and charcoal briquettes in a metal container and allow them to stay in the container for at least 48 hours. Do not dump hot ashes on the ground.


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