May 10, 2010
A brush fire broke out along Interstate 64 near Crozet over the weekend, keeping firefighters busy and causing a major traffic tie up. The brush fire is out, but as far as the fire threat goes, officials say Central Virginia is not out of the woods just yet.
"Generally, if we don't get any rain, the fire threat will continue," Richard Thomas from the Virginia Department of Forestry said. "It just depends on the wind and the relative humidity."
This weekend, the combination of high winds, dry air and very little soil moisture dramatically increased the threat for wildfires. The winds have calmed down significantly, but threat for fires will remain until more rain comes to the area.
"Moisture would help, moisture not only in the ground but moisture in the air," said James Barber, assistant chief of fire prevention with the Albemarle County Department of Fire Rescue. "When the air is dry, like it is now, any moisture in the ground doesn't stay around for very long."
Albemarle County Fire Rescue responded to about 20 calls this weekend. The cause of the fires varied from downed power lines to out-of-control open burns to discarded cigarette butts.
"If you are a smoker, just be very cautious about where you dispose of your cigarette butt and things like that," Barber said. "Those fires can start in places where you normally wouldn't expect."
Members of the Albemarle County Fire Department, the Crozet Volunteer Fire department, and the Virginia Department of Forestry are all hoping for rain.
"If you get that moisture from the rain, it will keep the forest floor cool and damp, and that will safe us up for a longer period of time than if we don't get any rain," Thomas said.
The Virginia Department of Forestry responded to 22 wildfires this weekend, which impacted about 90 acres statewide.