Burn ban stays in effect across Southwest Virginia, education efforts amp up

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GALAX, Va. (WDBJ) - Currently there are burn bans that span 17 counties in our area. According to the Virginia Department of Forestry, they will stay in effect until the dry conditions change.

WDBJ7 Photo

"Its been a few years since we've had this many counties in southwest Virginia that have been under a complete burn ban," said Sarah Gracey, with the Virginia Wildfire Prevention and Education Team.

Gracey said a burn ban simply means no open flames.

This includes a popular fall activity - burning fallen leaves. There just hasn't been enough rain to have safe fires.

"Right now we're standing at 600 region wide. Zero is total saturation of the soil. Eight-hundred is desert-like conditions," said Brad Carico, a Deputy Forester for the Western Region.

Carico is referring to the Keetch-Byram Drought Index - a measurement that is not easily altered.

"Really it takes about two-tenth's of an inch of rain for it to move at all," said Carico.

So Carico, Gracey and members from the Galax Volunteer Fire Department showed us what it would take if there was a fire in Matthews State Forest.

Many of the tools used include things that can be carried, like backpack blowers. Moving pine straw and leaves out of the way is important, since that is what fuels fire.

While Galax Fire Department members say they are prepared, they are hoping not to have to put any out during burning season which begins October 15 and lasts until November 30.