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Rising temperatures and low humidity increase fire risk in western Virginia

Published: Mar. 8, 2021 at 6:36 PM EST
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ROANOKE CO., Va. (WDBJ) - Rising temperatures and low humidity can be a dangerous combination when it comes to wildfires. And that’s why state forestry officials are keeping a close eye on conditions in western Virginia.

Over the weekend, firefighters responded to a ten-acre fire in Carroll County, and others in far southwest Virginia. And with extremely low humidity and rising temperatures in the forecast, the Virginia Department of Forestry is preparing for the possibility of additional wildland fires.

“What we’re seeing and what concerns us in a week like this is the grasses and the leaves,” said Regional Forester Chris Thomsen, as he showed us conditions in Roanoke County’s Green Hill Park. “You can see and hear the crunch. And that’s where fires get started.”

Fallen tree limbs and other large materials still have moisture, but Thomsen said when you can hear the snap, crackle and pop beneath your feet, the smaller materials on the forest floor are very dry, and the risk of fire is elevated.

“The fine fuels, the grasses, the leaves are ready to burn, and so all it’s going to take is that one discarded cigarette out a window, a vehicle issue with the brakes, the exhaust or something,” Thomsen told WDBJ7.

State law prohibits outdoor burning before 4 p.m. through April 30, and Thomsen notes many communities have additional restrictions.

He said he also appreciates a weather forecast that includes some moisture before the end of the week.

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