Firefighters offer advice for mitigating wildfires as risk remains high in Central Virginia

Firefighters warn current dry conditions, coupled with falling leaves and wind, heightens the risk for brush fires.
Published: Nov. 16, 2023 at 6:03 PM EST
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HENRICO, Va. (WWBT) - With wildfires and smoke impacting a large portion of Western and Northern Virginia, there are concerns that similar fires could easily reach the Richmond area.

“There’s a drought going on and Richmond is certainly in that drought. If you actually see, they’ve been having a lot of brushfires out in the mountains of the Shenandoah and the Blue Ridge,” said Henrico Fire Battalion Chief Doug Reynolds. “And that’s just because of the extreme drought.”

Central Virginia is dealing with several challenging factors that make this a high-risk climate for wildfires.

The prolonged lack of rain, coupled with an increase in falling leaves and lower humidity, means fires can be triggered a lot easier.

“We’re seeing pickups in those little, small nuisance fires right now,” said Reynolds. “We’ve been lucky we haven’t had a bigger one yet, but we know the conditions are getting ripe for that.”

Firefighters are warning residents to be mindful about where they dispose of cigarette butts because they can trigger mulch fires.

It is also important to fully dampen out any ash from charcoal grills or fire pits before leaving them.

And homeowners should be mindful of leaves.

“Don’t wait until February. Get them up now, because that way if there’s a fire in the woods or if your neighbor has a fire and it gets away from him, when it comes over to your green grass, you know, with no leaves, it tends to slow down and might even go out,” Reynolds said. “It gives you time to put that fire out.”

Reynolds said they haven’t seen a brush fire season like this in a long time, and that February tends to be the worst month for those types of fires.

Just this past February his team battled a 70-acre brush fire in Varina.

“We haven’t had a Fall fire season in a pretty good while, and so we’ve actually been talking amongst ourselves, and talking to some forestry guys today, that we’re worried what you’re seeing out in the Blue Ridge could easily start happening here in the Richmond area,” Reynolds said.