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October 2009

Arsonist Torches VDOF Fire Vehicle; Reward Offered

Photo of burned transport.

As fall fire season approaches, it's going to be a bit more difficult to respond to a wildfire in Franklin County after someone intentionally set fire to the cab of a vehicle the Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) uses to transport its fireplow.

On Sept. 11th, Agency personnel secured the vehicle on a tract of forestland in preparation for a prescribed burn scheduled for Monday, Sept. 14th. The land is near the intersection of Sontag Road and Goode Mountain Road (approximately eight miles southeast of Rocky Mount and about 2 miles in on Goode Mountain Road). On Saturday, officials were contacted by the landowner who reported the fire damage to the 2007 Sterling transport vehicle. The vehicle is a total loss.

The VDOF has posted a reward of up to $2,000 for information leading to the arrest and prosecution of the person or persons involved. Anyone with information regarding this crime is encouraged to contact the Virginia State Police at 540.375.9547 and ask to leave a message for Special Agent Garland Snead, or the Western Region VDOF office at 540.387.5461 - extension 229 - Ed Stoots.

“This criminal act only endangers the people of Franklin County,” said Ed Stoots, VDOF's regional forester for western Virginia.¬†“Without the transport, we can't get the fireplow to the scene of a wildland fire. People's lives and their property are at risk.”

Evidence gathered at the scene indicates the fire was intentionally set. The fire burned so hot, it melted the vehicle's two front tires and everything in the cab, including the emergency radio. Officers from the Virginia State Police and the Franklin County Sheriff's office are investigating.

“Anytime someone intentionally damages or destroys the Commonwealth's emergency response equipment, it can be viewed as an act of domestic terrorism,” Stoots said. “But we're confident that the investigation will bring this person or persons to justice.”

Until the transport can be replaced, Franklin County wildland fires will be covered by units from adjoining counties or until another temporary replacement can be found.

Tax Exemption for Southern Pine Beetle Cost Share

The Southern Pine Beetle Cost Share provides financial incentives for landowners to conduct pine thinnings and/or longleaf pine restoration. These activities create healthier forests and reduce the occurrence and impact of bark beetle outbreaks. Previously, the payments a landowner received were taxable; now, the Internal revenue Service (IRS) allows these payments to be excluded from taxable income calculations.

Landowners are urged to consult a tax professional for their specific case, and refer to Section 126 of the Internal Revenue Code (Revenue Ruling 2009-23, August 10, 2009, IRB 2009-32) in their correspondence.

Nurseries Seek Public's Help With Acorn & Seed Collection

Growing tree seedlings from native sources is a specialty of the VDOF. This year, as in years past, the agency needs help in preserving Virginia species. Citizens can do their part by collecting acorns and seeds from nine species and delivering them to the nearest VDOF office.

“Generally, the best time to collect acorns is the last week in September through the first week of October,” said Josh McLaughlin, nursery forester. “Every bag of acorns and seed collected by citizens will help us keep Virginia beautiful.” He added, “Lawns or paved areas are ideal collection sites. A single tree located in these areas makes identifying the acorns easier.”

The species most needed are: Black Oak; Chestnut Oak; Chinese Chestnut; Northern Red Oak; Pin Oak; Swamp Chestnut Oak; Swamp White Oak; Willow Oak, and White Oak.

McLaughlin reminds anyone who is interested in collecting acorns or seed to: not use plastic bags to hold the acorns or seed; identify the tree species on the non-plastic bag, and to not combine acorn or seed from different tree species in the same bag.

Celebrate 2010 with our Smokey Bear Calendar

For more than 60 years, the VDOF wall calendar could be found on display across Virginia in fire stations and offices, and in sawmills and classrooms. The difficult economic situation and agency budget reductions (25.3 percent) seemed to mean there would be no calendar published for 2010. Safety has prevailed, thanks to the efforts of John Miller and his Forest Resource Protection Division team, who enabled VDOF to secure a federal grant to deliver important Firewise information to Virginians through the 2010 calendar.

Presecribed fire, woodland home communities and Smokey Bear are featured in the calendar. Be sure to make special note of the new Smokey Bear artwork used for the months of March, April, August and October. This artwork was taken from the new bi-lingual reading book about Smokey, featured in last month's Foresty Update.

These calendars will be distributed to county offices by October 9. Contact your local office [link] to arrange to pick up a copy.