The West Virginia Division of Forestry (WVDOF) concluded the fall fire season on December 31, 2022.
“It was a very active season,” said Assistant State Forester-Fire Jeremy Jones, WV DOF.
In fact, both the Spring and Fall Fire seasons kept the foresters, investigators and wardens extremely busy with 890 fires taking place and 20,395 acres burned.
WVDOF is tasked under Chapter 20 of State Code with the prevention, detection and suppression of all wildfires throughout the state.
Federal properties such as New River Gorge National Park and Monongahela National Forest are maintained by the federal government and utilize federal employees to control fires in those areas.
The wildfires that WVDOF suppressed in 2022 are categorized by the following causes with the number of occurrences provided: Campfires (9), Children (19), Debris burning (311), Equipment Use (254), Incendiary (174), Lightning (3), Railroad (0), Smoker (0), and Miscellaneous (68).
The three major causes that wildfires start from are debris burning, equipment use, and incendiary. Debris burning means someone had started a fire by burning something (e.g. brushpile) but the fire escaped and led to a wildfire.
This is not an intentional burn unlike arson and usually, these fires escaped due to poor planning (pile too large and unmanageable), not having an adequate safety strip (10 feet), and burning during prohibited hours.
Equipment Use wildfires happen when weather conditions are dry, windy and humidity is low and can be caused by downed power lines where wildfires are the result. Unfortunately, the other large category of large wildfires is incendiary (arson). Incendiary or arson fires are intentionally set.
WVDOF utilizes Fire Investigators to investigate these fires using arson-trained canines to determine the cause and even lead them to a suspect.
Jones said “WVDOF are specially trained to work with these fires. Most fires are not something small that can be squirted out with water. Foresters utilize special tools and techniques to “fight fire with fire.”
Local volunteers and fire departments partner with WVDOF wildland firefighters to control fires in all counties of the state. Even though the fire season is done for now it will return starting March 1, 2023. It is always a good idea to remember the fire law rules and stay safe while burning.
For more information follow our website at https://wvforestry.com/fire-laws/.
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