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Rural landowners can help prevent wildfires

Rural landowners can help prevent wildfires

RICHMOND—It’s fall wildfire season in Virginia, and state officials are asking residents to remain vigilant to help prevent fires.

Record dry conditions and high temperatures kicked off the start of Virginia’s wildfire season, which began Oct. 15 and continues through Nov. 30.

“Fall is a critical time for wildfire prevention,” said Fred Turck, a fire prevention expert for the Virginia Department of Forestry. “We’d like folks to understand that even with the rain we’ve gotten, things can quickly dry out, and conditions will be prime for wildfires.”

Most wildfires are caused by human activity, and officials are asking residents and landowners to take extra precautions. Fire prevention efforts are focused on rural landowners, as they typically don’t have leaf and debris maintenance like urban areas.

“Many farmers and rural landowners burn trash, brush and leaves to get rid of debris, which makes them a key audience for wildfire prevention,” Turck said.

Wildfires can disrupt farming and agriculture operations by damaging infrastructure like barns, sheds, fencing and equipment, and posing a risk to livestock and feed supplies.

State forestry officials ask landowners who burn outdoor debris to keep fires small and manageable. Always check with the locality for burn restrictions and the latest information on fire monitoring before burning.

According to the VDOF website, there have been 326 fires that burned 1,902 acres so far this year. Since Oct. 15 there have been 13 fires that burned 73 acres.

“The recent rains have helped, and we’re back to normal conditions, but normal conditions in the fall means we can still have fires,” Turck said. “Conditions change every day, and we could be coming up on another dry spell.”

He suggested steps to prevent wildfires:

  • Don’t burn on windy days.

  • Before lighting a fire, make sure winds are less than 10 mph and that the relative humidity level is above 35%.

  • If the conditions aren’t right, don’t ignite. Postpone any burning until conditions improve.

  • Keep burn piles small.

  • Have water and tools nearby.

  • Never leave the fire unattended.

  • If you are burning and your fire escapes, call 911 immediately.

Media: Contact Turck at 434-220-8052.