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Prepare for Spring Wildfire Season in Virginia

Published: Feb. 9, 2018 at 5:48 PM EST
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February 15th is the start of the spring wildfire season in the commonwealth, and the Virginia Department of Forestry says that this week's rain has decreased the risk across Virginia.

John Miller, the Director of Emergency Response, said we are in good shape for the beginning of the fire season, thanks to the rain helping to add moisture to fire fuels, like dry grass, straw and leaves, which are the biggest fuels for wildfires.

Miller says getting more frequent rain events, even when it isn't a lot of rain, greatly decreases wildfire risk:

"A little bit of precipitation goes a long way in really holding back the threat of wildfires or making the fuels more likely to resist fire rather than to spread fire," said Miller.

While the Virginia Department of Forestry has already responded to 57 wildfires this year that burned 272 acres, Miller says, so far, this fire season is starting out with a lower than average risk of wildfires.

"If we settle into this situation of having some kind of weekly precipitation event, that really leaves us in very good shape in terms of the threat for wildfire damage," Miller added.

Miller told us the 15th is also the start of the 4:00 p.m. outdoor burning law, requiring people to postpone all outdoor burning to the later hours of the day when there is more moisture in the air, further preventing fires from starting.

That law specifically prohibits open air burning between 4 p.m. and midnight. Violating the law is punishable with up to a $500 fine.

According to the Dept. of Forestry, 94% of all wildfires in Virginia are caused by humans.

They offer these tips to prepare your property for wildfire season:

* Remove all branches that touch the house, garage, shed, etc.;

* Clear all brush (tall grass, leaves, branches, weeds, etc.) within 30 feet of the home and other structures;

* Keep gutters clear of debris;

* Remove combustibles from under or near structures;

* Trim branches up to 10 feet from the base of the tree and remove any vines from the trees;

* Use gravel or chunky bark for mulch;

* Keep flammable plants away from your home;

* Maintain your driveway so that the clearance is at least 12 feet wide and 12 feet high, and make sure your house number is visible from the street/road.

* Use fire-resistant materials for your roof, deck and siding projects.

* Even if it is after 4PM DO NOT BURN on dry, windy days;

* Plan to stay with your fire until it completely burns down;

* Keep your piles small;

* Clear all dry grass and leaves from around your burn pile for at least 10 feet;

* Have water, a rake and shovel nearby;

Miller said, “If a fire does escape your control, call 911 immediately.”