What does it mean?

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Yesterday’s fast-moving brush fire caused traffic and lives to be disrupted for hours. The Virginia Department of Forestry’s fire danger rating for yesterday and today was a 3, or a high danger of fire. Though we do not have many days of low humidity, we do have winds, accompanied by the effects of drought and a lot of fuel from previous hurricanes. The fire danger rating indicates the potential for a fire to start, and how quickly the fire will spread. Many saw the effects of what could be called the perfect storm of circumstances that came together, resulting in approximately 75 acres scorched, and a large number of resources deployed to fight the fire.

Though this part of Virginia does not see many fires of this magnitude, the potential is ever-present. When I was on the job, subdivisions were earmarked that fell within the boundaries of Wildland Interface. In other words, there are subdivisions that sit in the middle of or adjacent to areas similar to yesterday’s fire. Glebe Point is one of many subdivisions that come to mind. A fast moving, wind-driven fire could be devastating in these areas. As I have stated before, for those who live in Wildland Interface areas, you must do everything possible to minimize the hazards. A few suggestions would be:

  • Keep the leaves raked up
  • Keep your gutters clean
  • Remove fallen limbs
  • Clear or trim back trees

These are but a few suggestions. Ultimately, you need to have a plan if a fire starts close to your home. Do you know alternate routes into and out of your subdivision? What if roads are closed that are part of your daily commute to and from work? Fires are no respecter of person, place or time.

Rain has a direct effect on the fire danger rating, though many do not realize that conditions can return to a dangerous rating in a short period of time, based upon the right conditions. Burning in designated parts of the state is only allowed from 4 p.m. to Midnight. Sometimes a burn ban is necessary on the extremely dangerous days. Many places in Chesterfield County are designated as “no burn areas.” If you live in one of these areas, you cannot burn leaves at any time. Incidentally, trash cannot be burned in Chesterfield at any time. For more information about burn regulations, you can visit the county’s website, www.chesterfield.gov, as well as the site for the Virginia Department of Forestry, www.dof.virginia.gov.

Most firefighters will say, “I hate a brush fire.” Some love them so much that they obtained their red card, qualifying them to be deployed on major forest fires across the nation. Brush fires like yesterday’s are great opportunities to exercise the Incident Command System, which is an incident management system that has been in the fire service for many years. The command post for an incident like this one consists of multiple agencies, all operating under a unity of command. Though there may be many chiefs from many different organizations, there is only one Incident Commander (IC). Tonight’s rain will be a much needed sight to hopefully extinguish hot spots from yesterday’s fires.  

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