Though last year was a relatively quiet one for forest fires in the area, foresters urge residents to remain cautious when burning outdoors, especially during the spring months when the air is drier and the wind picks up.
Virginia’s burn law prohibits burning before 4 p.m. each day until April 30 if the fire is in, or within, 300 feet of woodland, brush land or fields containing dry grass or other flammable materials.
Forester Jeff Darr and forestry technician Nelson Jarvis of the Gloucester office of the Virginia Department of Forestry said it is very difficult to predict how a fire season may go. It only takes a day or two, even following a heavy rain, for vegetation to dry out enough to create the right conditions for a fire.
Darr said the last major fire outbreak in this area was Feb. 19, 2011. These fires decimated acres of forestland in both the Starvation area in upper Gloucester and Guinea at the lower end of the county. Fueled by extremely low humidity and high winds, the fires also threatened and damaged a number of structures.
"That day, the wind started blowing at 40 miles per hour while the humidity was down in the single digits, and that kind of humidity is usually unheard of in Virginia because of our proximity to the Chesapeake Bay," Jarvis said. "That shows we have the fuel, but we don’t normally have the atmospheric conditions to fuel these types of fires."