The Virginia Department of Forestry has issued a burn ban in parts of central and western Virginia as drought conditions lead officials to prepare for what could be a severe fall wildfire season across the state.
In the immediate Lynchburg area, only Amherst County currently is under a burn ban. But the area is surrounded by counties under the decree, including Franklin, Pittsylvania, Halifax, Charlotte and Prince Edward.
Fire officials kept a wary eye Friday on a wildfire in the Jefferson National Forest between Big Island and Glasgow. About 15 firefighters with the U.S. Forestry Service were dispatched to fight the fire, which had spread at one point to about five acres.
“This is one of the driest falls we’ve seen in Virginia during the past 20 years,” state Forester Rob Farrell said in a VDOF news release Monday. “The potential for an increased number of fires and more complex fires is significant."
According to the news release, the fire danger increases each day the state goes without widespread, significant rain.
Phil Manuel — a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Blacksburg — said many areas across Virginia, including the Lynchburg area, have gone more than 25 days without significant rainfall.
“The short-term forecast of six to 10 days indicates a continuation of this dry spell and the long-range forecast through the end of October does not look much better,” Manuel said. "This time of the year there is always the possibility of a tropical storm to bring rain to Virginia, but so far there are none on the horizon."
As of Monday, more than 24 counties and municipalities in Virginia have enacted a ban on all outdoor burning, and more counties likely will enact bans in the next few days as the drought continues, the release said.
VDOF is asking all residents of Virginia — especially those who live in counties with a burn ban in place — to obey all local restrictions and postpone any burning until a significant rainfall event occurs and the burn bans are lifted.
“How this season turns out remains to be seen," Farrell said in the release. "The potential for a severe fire season is very real. VDOF personnel have ramped up preparedness and we urge the public to do their part to help reduce the number and severity of fires this fall.”