April 9, 2012
A Red Flag Warning is in effect Monday for all of central Virginia, indicating the area is at an increased risk for wildfires. And the warning will likely be extended to Tuesday and beyond as long as the conditions continue.
Those conditions are:
- Relative humidity levels below 30 percent
- Wind speeds greater than 15 mph
- Low amounts of moisture in the ground
And when it comes to fighting wildfires, members of the Charlottesville Fire Department is getting some new protective clothing.
Firefighters typically wear heavy jackets, pants and boots to battle house fires, but officials say the gear could cause them to overheat when fighting brush fires, which typically take more time and require them to travel longer distances.
The new light-weight wildfire fighting outfits include a lighter helmet that's designed to protect firefighters from falling branches.
Over the past couple of days our weather conditions have been perfect for the threat of wildfires. The warm, dry weather has contributed to the spread of wildfires throughout the commonwealth.
A brush fire Sunday burned about six acres in the Schuyler area of Nelson County. Fire investigators say it started when a homeowner was burning a small pile of brush, and strong winds caused the flames to spread quickly. The Virginia Department of Forestry was called to assist with the wildfire and keep it contained.
In the George Washington-Jefferson National Forest, fires have burned more than 1,100 acres in Botetourt, Craig and Alleghany counties. Fire officials say at least 50 acres have burned in Shenandoah County. And a wildfire in Page County has burned 621 acres.
Charlottesville Deputy Fire Chief Britt Grimm says the conditions make Monday a bad day for outdoor burning.
"The chances are so much greater that an unattended fire is going to get away from them," he said. "The conditions are so favorable for rapid development of fire that it doesn't take but a small ember or cigarette butt you could have a significant fire very rapidly."
Red flag warnings are uncommon for central Virginia, Grimm explains, "We don't see these on a real frequent basis in central Virginia, but the conditions do exist."
Although not a frequent threat, in the past five years the National Weather Service Office in Sterling, VA has issued 16 Red Flag Warnings for Virginia. There have already been three days of warning in the first week of April.
Authorities say the fires have not threatened any structures and no injuries have been reported.
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