Friday, July 09, 2010

Virginians warned of increased fire danger

Warnings were issued Wednesday by Governor Bob McDonnell to Virginians about increased fire danger due to an extended period of soaring temperatures in addition to extremely dry conditions with little or no rain in sight. As a result, forestry officials are concerned that conditions are ripe for wildfires.

Governor McDonnell issued an urgent message, noting, "Typically, Virginia’s summer climate of high humidity and regular thunderstorms translates into green fields, grass, and trees and a lack of the kind of summer fire seasons experienced by many other states. But that’s simply not the case this year. The extremely hot temperatures combined with no real rain for several weeks have turned a lot of things brown, and that means the threat of fire has increased.”

The Virginia Department of Forestry's drought index scale that ranks fire danger from 0 (total ground saturation) to 800 (desert-like conditions) has current conditions for most of Virginia at 500+. A usual reading at this time of year would be around 200.

While the drought index scale has not reached the point where forestry officials would enact a fire ban, it is at the point where warnings are being issued in addition to calls for caution to avoid the destruction of fields and forest land.

Governor McDonnell warned about the use of machinery that could cause a spark such as lawn mowers and grain harvesting equipment as well as the intense heat of vehicle exhaust systems, welding sparks, camp fires, fireworks, and burning trash.

The Department of Forestry is charged with determining the cause of wildfires. Anyone determined to be responsible for starting a fire is responsible for paying the cost of extinguishing the fire in addition to paying for any property damage that occurs.

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