The Fall Forest Fire Season ends Monday, but it’s been a hot one for the Division of Forestry.
State Forester Randy Dye says between July and the end of December thousands of acres of West Virginia forest went up in flames.
“We had 300 fires statewide that burned approximately 10,000 acres,” says Dye. “That’s nearly twice of what we normally burn in the fall.”
The forester says a lot of that has to do with the June 29thstorm and it’s aftermath.
“The derecho put a lot of limbs and trees on the ground which increased the fuel load. We had a hotter fire season,” says Dye.
Most of the fires during the fall season took place in what Dye calls the ‘hot spot,’ ten Southern West Virginia counties that are most often the site of forest fires.
The cause of those blazes, according to Dye, is 50% careless brush fire burning and, “Approximately 30% was incendiary. People deliberately setting fire to the woods for whatever reason.”
Dye says at times the fall season was a bit surreal, like the days after Superstorm Sandy hit West Virginia in late October.
“We were clearing roads in the northern part of the state where the snow had put the trees on the ground and fighting fires in the southern part of the state the next week.”
Even though you can go back to burning during daytime hours starting January 1st, Dye says there’s still a lot of debris on the ground from the derecho and Hurricane Sandy. That means you need to be cautious even in the winter.
“When there’s not snow on the ground, the forest floor can dry out very quickly, especially those that have a slope facing west or south. The sun hits directly on those, dries leaf litter out very quickly,” says Dye. “So a fire can spread.”
Spring Forest Fire Season begins March 1st.