BANDYTOWN, W.Va. — The windy, warm conditions that dominated Saturday, Sunday and Monday fueled four dozen brush fires across the state keeping volunteer firefighters and personnel with the state Division of Forestry busy.
“When it’s 80 degrees and you have winds that are whipping at 10 or 20 or 30 miles an hour the leaves on the ground dry out very quickly,” Boone Fire Forester Charlie Spencer said.
Spencer and others responded to a brush fire on a hillside near Bandytown Sunday afternoon and it was still burning 24 hours later.
“It’s in pretty steep terrain,” Spencer said. “It’s on the west fork of Pond Fork. It started behind some houses up on a hill.”
The Division of Forestry said there were 49 new fires over the weekend in West Virginia that burned 989 acres. The Bandytown fire was threatening to cover 150 acres Monday afternoon.
Spencer said most, if not all, of the recent brush fires could have been avoided.
“Most people don’t realize just how dry it is until bad things happen,” he said. “Once it gets really dry and people are aware their caution builds in and we have less fires. But most of them have been right after a rain right when it’s first starting to dry out.”
Spencer was hoping Monday afternoon rain would calm the tinder box-type conditions. But he said it wouldn’t take long for conditions to get bad again especially where the hillside slopes face south and get the direct springtime sunshine.
The Van Volunteer Fire Department is credited for saving several homes in the Bandytown area. Spencer said he’s not sure what started the blaze but it could have been children playing with fire.
Other large brush fires were reported near the Kanawha-Fayette county line at Smithers, Route 21 in Jackson County near Ripley and the Raccoon Creek area of Cabell County.