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May, 2009

Bio-Energy Conference Generates Awareness

The first-of-its-kind conference - Bio-energy: Opportunities, Challenges and Connections - was held April 10 in Manassas. More than 65 people attended the day-long gathering. The event brought together municipal officials, local leaders, energy advocates and potential bio-energy producers to discuss the emerging market for municipal solid waste and wood as energy sources in urban and exurban areas in Northern Virginia.

“This was an excellent opportunity to get all the various groups and organizations together to discuss the very real potential for affordable and cleaner energy,” said Terry Lasher, assistant regional forester with the Virginia Department of Forestry and program co-chair.

Speakers included: U.S. Congressman Rob Wittman and Stephen Walz, energy adviser to Gov. Timothy M. Kaine and director of the Virginia Department of Mines, Mineral and Energy. A video of speaker interviews will be posted to ForestryTV at http://www.youtube.com/ForestryTV

Spring Fire Season Officially Ends

Spring fire season officially ended at midnight Thursday (April 30) along with the prohibition on outdoor burning before 4 p.m., but officials with the Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) caution that conditions are not ideal and that the threat of wildland fires is still very real.

“Even though the calendar says that spring fire season is over doesn't mean that the threat of wildland fires has ended,” said John Miller, VDOF's director of resource protection. He noted that yard debris, such as leaves and downed tree limbs and branches, are often burned as part of “spring cleaning.” These fires increase the potential threat of wildland fires.

From January 1st through April 30th, the VDOF responded to 802 wildland fires that burned 6,836 acres. Agency employees and members of numerous volunteer fire departments protected 436 homes and 411 other structures. One home was damaged.

These figures represent a 15 percent decrease in the number of fires and a 73 percent decrease in the numbers of acres burned this year compared to last year. Comparable decreases were seen in the number of homes and other structures protected.

During the same period in 2008, a total of 948 wildfires burned 25,646 acres. Virginia saw the worst fire day in memory Sunday, Feb. 10, 2008. High winds across the state whipped up 354 fires that burned more than 16,000 acres.