By CALVIN PYNN
Widespread heavy rain over the past 72 hours brought a fitting and welcome end to a relatively busy spring wildfire season in Virginia.
According to Jim Moeller with the Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF), firefighters from the VDOF responded to 597 wildfires and protected more than 950 homes and other structures. The spring fire season runs each year from February 15 through April 30.
“We had a fairly large number of acres burn this spring,” said VDOF Director of Resource Protection John Miller. “Just under 9,500 acres burned in the first four months of this year – that’s almost as many acres (10,000) as burn in an entire year across Virginia.”
Within the 9,498 acres that burned, a total of 20 homes and 74 other structures were damaged so far this year. According to VDOF records, the No. 1 cause of wildfires this spring was, once again, debris burning.
Moeller said Arson was the second-leading cause.
“Each year, more than 95 percent of wildfires in Virginia are the result of human activity, such as debris burning, arson, equipment use, campfires, cigarettes tossed from vehicles or children playing with lighters or matches,” Miller said. “If we could get more people to be more careful with fire, we could significantly reduce the damage caused by wildfires in the Commonwealth each year.”
With the end of spring fire season comes the end of the 4 p.m. Burn Law each year. The burn law means people can only have open-air fires after 4 p.m. each day from February 15 through April 30.
Although the law isn’t in effect for the remainder of the calendar year, Miller cautions that wildfires can and do occur at any time of year.
“Even though we are no longer in spring fire season, if the humidity is low, the temperatures are high and the winds are in excess of 15 miles per hour, people should not be igniting fires as the likelihood of the fires escaping their control is fairly high,” Miller said. “Just wait a day or two until the humidity goes up and the winds go down.”