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July, 2010

Forestry Camp Wrap-Up

The top-scoring camper, Rebekah Slabach from Halifax County, poses with counselor Drew Arnn.The 64th annual Holiday Lake Forestry Camp was another fun-filled, learning-packed success. Fifty-six campers from 35 counties participated this year.

Camp's core classes were Tree Identification, Forest Measurements, Timber Harvesting, Wildlife Management, Tree Improvement, Forest Ecology, Forest Management, Environmental Protection, and Reproducing the Forest. Other camp experiences included a field trip to Greif-Riverville paper mill; an afternoon of arboriculture demonstrations; wildlife presentations, and forest products exploration. Exploratory short courses, Lumberjack competition, sports and swimming rounded out the program.

The campers took home excellent resource materials, including tree identification books. The top 10 campers (as scored academically throughout the week) received awards of outdoor recreation supplies. The top-scoring camper, Rebekah Slabach from Halifax County, also received a $100 savings bond for her efforts.

This year's program included a Forestry Field Day for campers' parents. Twenty-two parents experienced short versions of tree identification and forest measurement classes and toured Appomattox-Buckingham State Forest to see forest management in action. They took home information to use on their own property and to share with neighbors.

Donations from 36 groups, businesses and individuals - totaling more than nearly $13,000 - allowed campers to attend at minimal personal cost.

VDOF Awards $234,000 to Volunteer Fire Departments

Firefighters across the Commonwealth will be better prepared to battle wildfires now that 118 volunteer fire departments will share nearly $234,000 in grant funding from the Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF). The grants, which range from $1,000 to $2,500 each, will help provide personal protective equipment; wildland fire tools, and wildfire suppression training to volunteer firefighters.

“We work closely with the many volunteer fire departments across the state to protect Virginians’ lives and property from the ravages of wildfire,” said John Miller, director of resource protection for the VDOF. “The grants ensure these brave men and women have the proper training and equipment to help us suppress the more than 1,300 wildfires that occur annually in Virginia.”

Funding to support the $233,968 in grants comes from the Volunteer Fire Assistance program – a US Forest Service program administered by the Virginia Department of Forestry.

A list of the volunteer fire departments receiving grants this year is available on our website.

Fire Academy Celebrates 10th Year

More than 250 volunteer and paid firefighters from across the Commonwealth and seven other states gathered at Longwood University (Farmville, Va.) to take part in a training program that prepared them for the challenges associated with fighting wildland fires. The VDOF coordinate the Academy and receive financial support for the program through a grant from the National Park Service.

State Forester Carl Garrison said, “The Wildland Fire Academy is the most comprehensive training program we offer each year. The more techniques we can teach firefighters the better prepared they will be to safely attack and suppress wildland fires. And that will help reduce the loss of life and property.”

While many of the courses were classroom based, several involve field work. These included: the chainsaw operations course, where participants learned how to properly fell trees during a wildfire, and the bulldozer/fireplow course, where participants operated these important pieces of heavy equipment over and through a variety of obstacles they will encounter in the woods. In addition to the obstacle course they worked through during the day, “students” in this course also attacked and suppressed – using only their bulldozer/fireplows – a real wildfire at night as part of the program.

New this year was the Academy scholarship program that was established to honor the memory of Alex Williamson, who was killed earlier this year in a tragic car accident. Williamson was the VDOF’s chief forest warden in Halifax County for more than 35 years who trained hundreds of firefighters during his distinguished career. Catherine Lilly of Roanoke and Matthew King of Stafford were the first two recipients of the Williamson scholarship and attended the Academy free of charge.

Fireworks, Sparklers Remain a Fire Hazard

While legal fireworks and sparklers are a popular part of July 4th celebrations, in most areas of Virginia they could become a cause of wildfires this year.

Many areas of the state have experienced below-average rainfall, resulting in dry brush and grass.

“One spark is all it would take for a wildfire to start,” said Fred Turck, assistant director for wildfire prevention and education with the Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF). “Fireworks that have finished burning are still extremely hot, and they can smolder in dry grass or leaves before a fire ignites.”

Turck recommends keeping a bucket of water; wet towel, and a fully-charged garden hose nearby. Children and pets should also be kept a safe distance away from igniting and spent fireworks.

Many types of fireworks (including firecrackers, bottle rockets, skyrockets, torpedoes and other fireworks that explode, travel laterally, rise into the air, or fire projectiles into the air) are illegal in Virginia unless you are a licensed contractor. A good alternative to personal fireworks are the community displays. Check your local news source for information on times and locations, or go online.

Additional information on fire safety can be found on the VDOF website.

Remember, “only you can help Smokey Bear prevent wildfires.”