High wind, low humidity prompt red flag fire warning from National Weather Service

Virginia Department of Forestry recommended no outside burning Thursday


PITTSYLVANIA COUNTY, Va. – On March 30, the Virginia Department of Forestry responded to help Danville and Ringgold firefighters battle a large brush fire.

About 5 acres burned, thanks in part to high wind similar to what the area is experienced Thursday.

"Today is a red flag warning, that means there are several conditions that have been met in the weather that make fire behavior more erratic," Virginia Department of Forestry Dan River Work Area Senior Area Forester Drew Arnn said.

The combination of high wind and low humidity prompted the warning.

Arnn said a fire in these conditions will spread very quickly.

"We have a a bulldozer that we can use and we can put a firebreak around the fire to try to contain it," Arnn said.

Natural firebreaks also help contain fires so that they don't become the raging wildfires often seen out West.

"Out there, of course, you have large land masses with nothing there," Arnn explained. "Here, you have a road every couple hundred feet or a stream or a river, something like that."

Even so, a large fire like the one on March 30 in Danville still requires a lot of resources to contain.

Danville Fire Department Battalion Chief Steve Dishman said that's a big hazard with large fires.

"(Large fires do) start to move so fast, it really does wreak havoc on resources," Dishman said, "and it increases the danger to the people that are responding as well as any properties that might be exposed to it."

Having a lot of resources tied up on a fire means less resources available to respond to things like car crashes and EMS calls.

"A big part of these fires are preventable. That's why we really put a lot of emphasis on prevention," Dishman said.

The March 30 fire was determined to be caused by illegal burning.

While Thursday's red flag warning expires at midnight Thursday, the annual statewide 4 p.m. burning ban remains in effect through April 30.

Every year from Feb. 15 to April 30, outside fires are banned from midnight to 4 p.m.

Arnn said that time of year the wind dies down and the humidity increases after 4 p.m., making outdoor fires less risky.

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