Fire department warns of heightened brush fire risk in Virginia during dry weekend

HENRICO COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) – As smoke and wildfires impact a large part of Virginia, the Henrico County Fire Department said there’s potential for fires in our region this weekend – especially with the dry and windy conditions that are expected.

“Dry leaves can be the perfect fuel for a fire,” said Doug Reynolds, Henrico Battalion Fire Chief. “All it takes is one spark.” 

According to Reynolds, brush fires can spread easily, but people need to be prepared for the risk to be heightened with the current conditions.

“We’re dealing with high winds, drought conditions and low humidity. These are the things that make these fires start very easily,” said Reynolds. ”The biggest thing with brush fires is they can all of a sudden turn into acres long. And you see those fires that are in the mountains, they’re miles long.”

Reynolds is asking residents of the Richmond area to be especially cautious when throwing cigarette butts — it’s a problem has has already started fires around Henrico this season.

“Don’t throw your cigarette out the window in your car. We see those fires in the intersections and then we see them at mulch piles by businesses where you can’t smoke inside. So, they come outside.” 

Reynolds said that, more often than not, brush fires can be traced back to man-made origins, such as one in Henrico which grew to 70 acres in February.

“So, if you can hold off on [starting fires] to another time when the conditions improve that would be much better for the fire department,” said Reynolds.

If residents decide they want to have a campfire in their yard, Reynolds suggests digging a pit around the fire, and ring it with stones – topping it off with a screen keeping the embers inside.

However, if a brush fire develops, he advises having metal rakes and shovels nearby so that if the fire starts to spread, you’ll be better able to contain it. Lastly, make sure the campfire is 100% out before leaving it. 

“What you don’t want is the next morning, those, you know, it’s still warm and those winds kick up and all of a sudden they’re blowing those embers over into the woods, and now you’ve got a big problem,” said Reynolds.

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