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August, 2007

VDOF Employees Fighting Fires in Western US

Flames from the Skyland Fire tower over mature trees in Montana. (Great Falls Tribune photo.)Nearly 40 full- and part-time VDOF employees have been dispatched out West to assist with a number of wildland fires burning in Oregon, Montana, Nevada and Idaho.

The first crew left July 15th to assist with the 1,000-acre Badger Fire in the Umatilla National Forest in Oregon. The 14 individuals in that crew were on a two-week deployment.

A second crew was dispatched July 25th to Montana to support effort to suppress the Skyland Fire, located near Glacier National Park. The 20-person crew will be out there for 14 days. At last report, the fire has burned more than 35,000 acres.

In addition to the two crews, at least five Agency employees have been tapped as individual resources to support fire activities in four states.

“Our folks are performing well,” said John Miller, director of resource protection. “The fire behavior out West is almost unbelievable and certainly unlike anything most of our people have ever seen before. But all reports we’ve received thus far show that VDOF staff have risen to the challenge.”

Fire Activity in Virginia Higher This Summer Than Last Summer

Officials with the Virginia Department of Forestry report a 252 percent increase in the number of wildland fires this summer than during the same period in 2006.

A total of 148 wildland fires burned 653 acres between June 1 and August 2, 2007. Last summer, there were 42 fires that scorched 357 acres.

“We are certainly experiencing a lot more fire activity this summer,” said John Miller, director of resource protection. “We’ve had a fair number of lightning strikes that have caused some of the fires, but we’ve also had a significant number of fires caused by people burning debris, which we typically experience more in the spring.”

Miller said that there are drought-like conditions across the Commonwealth this summer that have dried out woods and fields. He added that several counties have put burn bans in place until conditions improve.

State Forester Carl Garrison said, “All areas of the Commonwealth need some significant and steady precipitation. Without several inches of rain over the course of a couple weeks, we could be in store for a very active fall fire season.”