By Joe Beck
The state's 2 1/2-month wildfire season came and went this year with few outbreaks reported in Shenandoah and Warren counties, but Frederick County was another story.
Shenandoah County Fire Chief Gary Yew and Chief Richard E. Mabie of Warren County said they received few calls for service compared to other years. Both cited favorable weather conditions during winter and early spring as a possible reason for the lack of wildfires during the season that officially ended Wednesday.
"Comparatively speaking, it was probably one of the least busy seasons we've had," Yew said. "We had a lot of snow, and that certainly kept forest fuels damp late in the season."
Yew said his department recorded 45 brush, grass and woods fires in recent weeks, all of them small and none causing major property damage.
Mabie said there was little activity in the mountain subdivisions that have proved troublesome in other wildfire seasons.
Weather probably played a role, but fire prevention education efforts may also have paid off in more people heeding the ban on burning after 4 p.m. during wildfire season, Mabie said.
"I wish I knew what it was," Mabie said of the reasons for the quiet season. "I'd dial that in again next year."
Mabie said Frederick County was much busier.
"I remember sitting here in the office, and we had no fires and Frederick County was having four or five going at one time," Mabie said.
Joe Lehnen, area forester for the Virginia Department of Forestry, said he had no clear explanation for why Frederick County had so many more wildfires than the counties to the south.
"I think it was the luck of the draw, so to speak," Lehnen said. "It just so happened they had fires starting on days when it was really breezy, and it just expanded the extent of the fires."
Lehnen said although the wildfire season officially ended Wednesday, conditions on mountaintops could still prove conducive to fires over the next week or so.
"The woods in the mountains aren't greened up yet," Lehnen said. "Consequently, if we have a few drying days, we could still have a few fires, especially in the mountainous areas."
Lehnen urged people to pay attention to weather forecasts if they are considering burning anything in an area vulnerable to fire.
Contact staff writer Joe Beck at 540-465-5137 ext. 142, or firstname.lastname@example.org