Fall wildfire season officially begins

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RICHMOND, Va. (CBS19 NEWS) -- Much of Virginia is currently in moderate drought conditions and it has been some time since the area has seen a substantial amount of rainfall.

Tuesday is the official start of the fall wildfire season, which runs from Oct. 15 to Nov. 30.

The Virginia Departments of Forestry, Emergency Management, and Fire Programs have been preparing for what could be one of the most severe fire seasons the Commonwealth has seen in several years due to the dry conditions.

“Due to extended periods of below-average rainfall, dry weather conditions, and record-high temperatures across our Commonwealth, most of Virginia faces an increased risk of wildfires this fall,” said Governor Ralph Northam in announcing the beginning of the fire season. “We all have a responsibility to do our part to prevent wildfires, and now is the time for Virginians to learn about how they can reduce wildfire risks and ensure the safety of their homes, families and communities.”

According to a release, VDOF is stressing the importance of taking extreme caution with anything that could cause a wildfire.

There are currently 39 localities that have initiated burn bans, including Louisa and Nelson counties. Officials expect more localities to issue burn bans if the dry conditions persist.

Residents are urged to contact their local sheriff or county administrator's office before having any kind of outdoor fire for further details on burning restrictions.

“Because more than 95 percent of wildfires in Virginia are caused by human activity, most can be prevented if people take care to ensure their debris burning or campfire does not escape their control,” said Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry Bettina Ring. “People burning trash or debris remains the number-one cause of wildfires in Virginia. In addition to observing all local burning restrictions, residents can also take a number of steps to help protect property and lives across the state.”

These steps include not burning materials on windy days, making sure winds are less than ten miles per hour and the relative humidity is above 35 percent, keeping burn piles small, having water and tools nearby, and never leaving a fire unattended.

Officials say, if the conditions are not right, don't ignite. If at all possible, postpone burning until conditions have improved, and if you are burning anything and the fire gets out of control, call 911 immediately.

Secretary of Public Safety and Homeland Security Brian Moran says VDEM and VDFP are preparing to support VDOF to respond to fire emergencies and provide resources to people impacted by wildfires.

The release adds VDOF is working increase outreach and education about preventing wildfires, and a National Wildfire Prevention Education Team was deployed to Southwest Virginia this past weekend.

Such resources are provided through the U.S. Forest Service to bolster efforts to communicate with residents about the risks of wildfires in their communities while also urging them to take measures to prevent wildfires.

For the latest information about wildfires and burn bans in Virginia, click on the link in the Related Links box.

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