RICHMOND — Virginia’s fall fire season that includes state restrictions on outdoor burning begins Monday, the Virginia Department of Forestry has announced.
The agency reminds that the threat of wildfires increases each autumn as leaves dry out and fall from trees, grasses turn brown, humidity levels drop and winds increase.
“Wildfires are directly linked to weather conditions,” said John Miller, director of resource protection at VDOF. “Whether it is someone burning debris or trash, an unattended campfire, or an intentional case of arson, wildfires have a greater chance of causing bodily harm or property damage in the fall and spring months because the conditions are right for fires to burn hotter and spread faster.”
Each year, Virginia on average experiences over 1,200 wildfires that burn more than 10,000 acres. VDOF employees annually protect hundreds of homes from wildfires, but each year there are always some homes destroyed by wildfires, the agency said.
VDOF said homeowners should ensure at least two escape routes in homes and in neighborhoods as well.
“Because your primary escape route might be blocked during a fire, having an alternate escape route could save your life,” Miller said. “While many people may have thought about a secondary way out of their homes, it’s highly likely that most have not given the same thought to an alternate way out of their neighborhoods.”
“If you live on a cul-de-sac or in an area where there is only one road in and out, would you know how to safely evacuate in the event that one road is blocked? Are you prepared to evacuate on foot if there’s no way out with your vehicle? These are potentially life-or-death questions,” Miller said.
All homeowners should take a few moments to consider evacuation options and discuss all options with family members so everyone can get out safely, he said.
“And if an evacuation order is given, those people with only one way in and out should leave immediately and not risk getting trapped,” Miller said.
One of the main restrictions on outdoor burning in Virginia during fall and spring fire seasons is no burning until after 4 p.m. daily, and not to burn at all during windy conditions no matter the time of day. Leaf and brush burners should have a water hose or other ample water supply and means to distribute it handy, and implements like a shovel and metal rake on hand.
“As more than 95 percent of wildfires that occur in Virginia are the result of human activity, taking even the simplest precautions with outdoor fires will significantly reduce the occurrence of wildfires and the threat to you and your neighbors,” Miller said.
To learn more on how to reduce the risk of wildfires, visit www.dof.virginia.gov or www.firewisevirginia.org.