Wythe Co. Officials Urge Residents to Exercise Fire Caution; Smoky Haze Visible

Jeremy T.K. Farley — November 8, 2016

WYTHE COUNTY, Va. – Several Wythe County residents have noticed hazy skies throughout the locality this week and have questioned if there were any wildfires burning in the county.

Though local fire crews have been called out to contain several brush fires over the past few weeks, the smoky skies are actually the result of out of control forest fires burning more than 100 miles to the west of us along the Kentucky-Tennessee border.

Out of control wildfires began over a week ago in Eastern Kentucky and have since rapidly moved eastward – eventually spreading into Virginia’s Wise County.

In addition to forest fires blazing to the west of Wythe County, this morning, local media began reporting additional wildfires at Roanoke County’s McAfee Knob.

Though neither of the two wildfires pose any threat to property in Wythe County, the locality’s emergency management team wishes to take the opportunity to remind residents to exercise extreme caution with regards to fire.

With the fall wildfire season running from mid-October to the end of November, Virginia Forestry officials stress that the main objective should be preventing a wildfire from ever starting in the first place.

“Approximately 96% of all wildfires in Virginia are caused by human activity, if people are careful and pay attention to weather conditions, they can keep themselves and their property safe by not letting a wildfire start,” stated Wythe County’s emergency coordinator Jason Busick.

Despite the fact that there are no official fire bans in place, local officials urge citizens to consider alternatives to lighting outdoor fires during this time of year, as November’s ever-changing conditions can prove disastrous for individuals overseeing a fire.

According to the Code of Virginia, if a fire does escape a person’s control or is left unattended, that person is financially liable for the cost of suppressing the wildfire as well as any damage that occurs as a result. Depending on the size and complexity of the wildfire, suppression costs alone could range from several hundred dollars to tens of thousands of dollars. Add to that the cost of burning down your neighbor’s home or barn, and state officials say those found guilty could be looking at millions of dollars in liabilities.

For instances where burning is a must, the Virginia Department of Forestry has provided several tips for fire safety. These tips include:
• Contacting your local fire department or Virginia Department of Forestry office
• Being aware of power lines, trees and structures
• Clearing all flammable materials, such as dry leaves and dry grass, from around the fire
• Having water and hand tools, such as a shovel and/or rake, available
• Having communication available or have someone nearby who can call for help in case of an emergency
• Burning when the humidity is high and the wind is calm
• Burning between 4:00 p.m. and midnight.
• Stay with the fire until it is completely out.

Virginia’s 4 p.m. burning law is only in effect February 15 through April 30, however, Wythe County officials wish to urge citizens to exercise grave caution and to remember that they are responsible for any blazes that become out of control.

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