By TRAVIS HANDY
Along with the brightly colored display of fall foliage comes an increased threat of wildfires. Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) reminds Virginians that fall wildfire season begins in mid-october, as leaves fall, grasses die, humidity drops and winds increase.
October 15 marks the first day of fall wildfire season in the state, and according to VDOF officials, the weather plays a big factor in determining the risk of wildfire, along with the public’s outdoor activities. Wildfire season continues through Nov. 30.
“Wildfires are directly linked to weather conditions,” said John Miller, director of resource protection at VDOF. “Whether it’s 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.”
According to VDOF, Virginia experiences more than 1,200 wildfires each year, which burn more than 10,000 acres of land. VDOF employees annually protect hundreds of homes from damage during wildfires, although some are ultimately destroyed.
“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,” said Miller.
To reduce the risk of wildfire damage to your home, clear leaves and other vegetative debris from roofs, gutters, porches and decks; remove dead vegetation and other items from within 10 feet of the house; screen in areas under your home or deck which may allow combustible material to accumulate; prune trees so that the lowest branches are six to 10 feet from the ground, and don’t let debris pile up near your home, garage or outbuildings. Should there be a wildfire, you will want to have a “defensible space” around your home.
Use caution when openly burning debris on your property or when burning near wooded areas. Be sure to properly dispose of smoking materials, and that no fire is left unattended. When finished burning, use care to see that fires are properly extinguished.