Easter Weekend Wildfires Torched Land In Bath, Rockbridge And Alleghany Counties
Warm Springs, VA –
Six wildfires torched western Virginia over a dry and windy Easter weekend burning nearly 40,000 acres of national forest and private land. Approximately 700 firefighters from 29 states participated in the suppression effort. All fires were contained by fire lines by April 19 with no structures lost, minimal injuries, and no fatalities.
The two largest fires occurred on the James River and Warm Springs Ranger Districts. Rich Hole grew to 15,279 acres and consumed lands in Rockbridge, Bath, and Alleghany counties. The 11,381 acre Alleghany Tunnels Fire burned in western Alleghany County. The total cost of fire suppression efforts is estimated at $5.1 million. The cause of the fires remains under investigation.
Dangerous wildfires do not only occur in the Western United States; high fire activity is also common in the South. Within this hazardous environment, there are homes, subdivisions and entire communities. However, many who live near woodlands or vegetated areas are ill prepared to survive an intense wildfire.
Our ability to live more safely in this environment depends on “pre-fire” activities. Research shows that being proactive before a wildfire occurs you have a better chance of saving lives and property from wildfire. We cannot “fire proof” the forest, but we can manage the vegetation around homes to create defensible space, use fire resistant building materials when building new or improving homes, help design new housing areas using fire safe measures and ensure coordination among all emergency response agencies to wild land fires.
There is an outstanding website that addresses fire prevention from nearly every point of view its called FIREWISE. Learn about defensible space, fire scaping, and what to do when wildfire approaches. Whether you are a homeowner, landowner, fire fighter, builder, or civic leader, visit www.firewise.org and learn about fire prevention in the wildland /urban interface.
Many people assume that when a wildfire starts, it will quickly be controlled and extinguished. This is an accurate assumption 97 percent of the time. For most wildfires, firefighters have the ability, equipment and technology for effective fire suppression, but 3 percent of the time, wildfires burn so intensely that there is little firefighters can do initially to contain the fire.
Three percent is still a large number of wildfires when you look at the statistics. The average number of wildfires in the United States per year is about 77,000 and over half of them are in the South, not the West. Three percent equals 2,300 wildfires that are difficult to contain and this is where the big and destructive wildfires come from that make the evening news.