Tri-Cities needs more rain to prevent wildfires


WASHINGTON COUNTY, Va. - Even though the Tri-Cities is finally getting some much needed rain, our area is still at risk of seeing wildfires.

Today's rainfall totals added up to more rain than there was in the entire month of September.

But long term, we still need more.

"We picked up more than half the average rainfall for the month of October in a day, so in the short term that has really helped us out," explained Storm Track 5 Meteorologists David Boyd. "But still, going back to September 1, there is a rainfall deficit so overall it's still relatively dry."

If we don't see rain for as little as two or three days in a row, the ground dries up enough to put us at risk of fires.

Chris Sullivan is the Senior Area Forester at the Department of Forestry in Abingdon, Va.

He said the rain can only help so much. It's really the leaves we should focus on.

"We just came off this long dry spell and that made the leaves drop quicker, and so we're seeing a lot more leaf accumulation then usual. I think we'll see some higher fire danger as this dries out," said Sullivan.

Vaughn Groves lives near Mendota. Last Fall the mountains behind his house caught on fire and burned 1,000 acres.

Sullivan and the Abingdon Forestry Department spent a week fighting the fire.

Groves can't speak highly enough of the department for their week long efforts to save the land.

"It makes you be very cautious," reflected Groves. "A day like today you may think there is no chance of a fire, but everything underneath the layer of leaves on the ground is very fragile, and still dry. Anything in that ground can still be set on fire."

He wants people to be careful this wildfire season because of how fast a fire can spread.

"You don't realize that this minor fire, with a little bit of wind, will make it grow," said Groves.

In Virginia and Tennessee, wildfire season officially starts October 15th.

It ends November 15th in Virginia, and December 15th in Tennessee.

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