From contributed reports

Shorter days and cooler nights are sure signs that autumn has arrived. And that means wildland fire season in Virginia begins Friday, Oct. 15.

Officials with the Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) remind everyone to be careful with outdoor fire any time of year but especially during the fall and spring seasons when the risk of a fire escaping is greatest.

John Miller, director of resource protection, said, “Fall fire season runs through Nov. 30. Each autumn, after the leaves turn color, they dry out and fall to the ground creating ‘fuel’ for a wildland fire. As humidity levels drop and winds increase this time of year, it doesn’t take long for a fire to escape.”

From Jan. 1, 2010 to Oct. 7, 2010, there have been 810 wildland fires that have burned 5,305 acres of privately owned land in the Commonwealth. (For comparison sake, during an average year in Virginia 1,270 fires burn a total of 10,500 acres.

VDOF records indicate that humans cause more than 95 percent of wildland fires – the bulk of which are preventable.

In addition to taking safety precautions to prevent a debris burn, campfire or hot ashes from a woodstove or fireplace from escaping and becoming a wildland fire, Miller also noted that motorists should also avoid parking their vehicles in piles of dry leaves.

“The undercarriage of a recently driven vehicle is hot enough to ignite a fire that will not only burn the leaves below but the vehicle as well,” he said. “Pay attention to your surroundings and keep an eye on the weather so that you don’t become a wildland fire statistic.”

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