Area fire crews warn about dry conditions for brush fires

By Tara Morgan - bio | email

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Dry and windy conditions are keeping firefighters busy around the Richmond area battling brush fires. 

Just in the last 24 hours, nearly a dozen broke out. No one's been hurt, but firefighters say there's something you can do now to protect yourself and your property.

Lawns that are clear of dried leaves bring down the risk for brush fires which are more common in late summer. But right now, conditions are ripe. Firefighters want people to keep that in mind and take precautions.

A poor decision got ugly for Kevin Ritko. Instead of raking leaves at his Griffin Avenue home, Ritko tossed them into his fire pit.

"I just thought it was faster than trying to bag them up," said Ritko.

Neighbors thought the worst.

(What did firefighters tell you?) "Ah not to do it again. Luckily they didn't give me a fine just a warning," said Ritko.

It was the fourth fire for Richmond crews in 24 hours. Near the Boulevard, a warming fire got out of control at a homeless camp. Three acres went up behind Thompson Middle School on Forest Hill Avenue.

"It sounds odd to say it's dry out here but with the wind and cold it tends to dry things out it doesn't take much," said Captain Mike Martin with Richmond Fire.

Here's a good example of the risk factor that firefighters point out. You have a yard here with barely any leaves and the one next door is covered which can easily help a fire spread in these dry conditions.

Chesterfield investigators don't know what sparked this small brush fire in the woods between Woolridge Road and the Fox Creek neighborhood. But say a diligent homeowner saved his house from going up.

"As you can see he's made a very good clear area right around here of leaves around his home and that's exactly where the fire stopped," said Lt. Jason Elmore with Chesterfield Fire.

What Ritko did was not only dangerous, but illegal in Richmond. He says now he'll break out the rake.

"I'm a little embarrassed. I don't know if I can walk away with a lesson except don't burn the leaves," said Ritko.

Henrico had a few small brush fires along roadsides Wednesday. Firefighters want to remind homeowners that it's a also good idea to make sure you have working batteries in your smoke alarms.

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