Help prevent wildfires

Published 11:44 pm Saturday, October 10, 2015

Fall wildfire season is here, and the Virginia Department of Forestry is urging folks to help keep themselves and their neighbors safe.

Most wildfires in Virginia — 96 percent, according to the agency — are caused by human activity, whether it is a campfire that is not completely extinguished, a trash burn that escapes the owner’s control or a carelessly discarded cigarette.

About 62 percent of Virginia’s land is forested. There are almost 360,000 homes and more than one million Virginians living in woodland communities and therefore directly in the potential path of a wildfire.

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“That’s a lot of lives and property at risk due to wildfire,” said John Miller, Virginia Department of Forestry’s director of resource protection.

Despite a significant amount of rain recently, the ground and vegetation will dry out soon enough. Much of Suffolk is rural and contains trees and vegetation that can easily become fuel for a blaze.

“The dead leaves are starting to drop from the trees,” Miller said. “This ‘leaf litter’ is an abundant source of fuel for wildfires, which can spread rapidly during dry and windy days.”

State Forester Bettina Ring said preventing a wildfire from starting is critical to the safety of citizens and firefighters. Wildfire firefighting is dangerous, and even a small blaze can get out of control very quickly is weather conditions are right, meaning several Virginians have died in recent years trying to fight the fires they started.

Folks should pay attention to weather conditions and all applicable local and state ordinances and laws. Burning responsibly and never discarding a lit cigarette butt are the keys to ensuring no fire damages Virginia this year.