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July, 2013

Veteran VDOF Employee Honored for Education Efforts

Paul Reier, a 34-year veteran of VDOF was honored with a Bronze Smokey Bear Award.A 34-year veteran of the Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) has earned the Bronze Smokey Bear Award.

Toano resident Paul Reier, a forestry technician who protects and serves the counties of Charles City, Hanover, Henrico, James City, King & Queen, King William and New Kent, was nominated for the “energy, dedication, and commitment” he demonstrated in countless Smokey Bear education programs.

“Paul works tirelessly, even after hours, to ensure Smokey is at numerous fairs, special events, baseball games and schools. He partners with everyone from local nursing homes to the local rescue organizations and fire departments,” said Fred Turck, VDOF’s assistant director of resource protection. “Paul always finds new ways to get Smokey Bear involved in community events and is proactive in his efforts.”

The Bronze Smokey Bear Award is the highest honor given for wildfire service on the state level, and is reserved for people or organizations that provide sustained, outstanding service in wildfire prevention. The award is sponsored by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service, the National Association of State Foresters and the Advertising Council.

Fire Academy Celebrates 13th Year

Approximately 300 volunteer and professional firefighters from across the Commonwealth and three 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.

Participants enrolled in one or more of the 10 courses that range from basic wildland firefighting and effective use of chainsaws to advanced tactics and the use of bulldozers/fireplows in the suppression of wildland fires. Funding for the Virginia Wildland Fire Academy is provided by the U.S. Forest Service.

While many of the courses were classroom based, several involved 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.

The Virginia Department of Forestry has just 227 employees, and the Agency is responsible for 15.7 million acres of forestland (62 percent of Virginia’s land base).

Forestry Camp Wrap-Up

Noah Williams of Southampton County was the top-scoring camper at this year's Forestry Camp. Counselor Drew Arnn is pictured to Noah's left.The 67th annual Holiday Lake Forestry Camp was another fun-filled, learning-packed success. Eighty campers from 40 counties and cities participated this year.

Camp's core classes were Tree Identification and Forest Measurements; Sustainable Forestry and Wildlife Management; Forest Ecology and Management, and Environmental Protection, Reproducing the Forest and Tree Improvement. Other camp experiences included a field trip to Greif-Riverville paper mill, advanced forestry topics, and wildlife presentations. 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 was Noah Williams from Southampton County.

Donations from organizations, businesses, and foundations - exceeding $15,000 - allowed campers to attend at minimal personal cost.

Nominations for the 2014 Forestry Camp will open in January. Camp is open to Virginia boys and girls ages 13-16 with an interest in natural resources, who have not attended before.

VDOF Awards $200,000 in Grants to 154 Volunteer Fire Departments

Through its Volunteer Fire Assistance (VFA) program, the VDOF awarded more than $200,000 in grants to 154 volunteer fire departments (VFDs) across the Commonwealth. The grants, ranging in size from $500 to $2,600, will be used by the VFDs for such purchases as personal protective equipment, communications gear, water tanks for brush trucks, wildland fire specialty tools and training materials.

“The VFA program provides vital funding to the many volunteer fire departments that assist us with the suppression of wildfires across the state,” said John Miller, director of VDOF's resource protection division. “This money helps VFDs purchase much-needed equipment that provides for the safety of both the public and these volunteer firefighters. I only wish we had enough funding to support all their needs.”

A total of 163 fire departments applied for grants this year, and 154 were approved. The requests for support totaled $813,337.68 - far more than the $200,928 VDOF had available. Funding for the grant program is provided by the U.S Forest Service.

See the complete list at http://www.dof.virginia.gov/press/nr/2013/06-19-vfa-grants.htm

Forestry Regulations Available for Review, Comment

Legislative action is being considered on three VDOF regulations. The public is invited to review the proposed changes and make comments. To do so, visit the Virginia Regulatory Town Hall website and scroll to find “Department of Forestry.”http://townhall.virginia.gov/L/NowInProgress.cfm.

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.

“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.

A good alternative to personal fireworks is the community display. Check your local news source for information on times and locations, or go online.

DOF Personnel News

Zach Addington is our new Forester and Travis Stanley is our new Technician in the Headwaters work area (Bland, Buchanan, Russell and Tazewell counties) in the Western Region. Zach has his Bachelor’s in Forestry from Virginia Tech and is a part-time firefighter for VDOF. Travis has his Associate’s in Environmental Science from Mountain Empire Community College. He has worked as an EMT for Abingdon Ambulance Service and also been a part-time firefighter for DOF.

Courtney Heckler is our new Forester in the Blackwater work area (Greensville, Isle of Wight, Southampton counties and the City of Suffolk) in the Eastern Region. She has her Bachelor’s in Forestry from Virginia Tech. Most recently, she worked as a Biologist for Enviro-Utilities in Richmond and is a trained wildland firefighter.

Rhonda Prillaman is our new Mapping and Outreach Specialist in the western part of the state. She has her Bachelor’s in Environmental Resource Management from Virginia Tech. Most recently, she served as a volunteer with the Natural Resources Conservation Service in Rocky Mount.