Home Politics High Winds Fuel Wildfires in Virginia and Other Mid-Atlantic States

High Winds Fuel Wildfires in Virginia and Other Mid-Atlantic States

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High Winds Fuel Wildfires in Virginia and Other Mid-Atlantic States

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High winds and low humidity helped spark dozens of wildfires across a handful of Mid-Atlantic States on Wednesday, causing officials to scramble to contain the blazes and issue air quality alerts. And with weather forecasts calling for increased fire danger again on Thursday, fire crews across the region were bracing to continue battling the flames.

Wildfires were reported in parts of Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia.

The Virginia Department of Forestry said in a statement late Wednesday night that firefighters from the department had contained 16 wildfires and that crews were still working to contain dozens of others.

One of the biggest fires in the state was burning in Rockingham County, Va., about 140 miles northwest of Richmond, the state capital. Rockingham County Fire Chief Jeremy Holloway said about 2,000 acres had burned, according to WHSV, a local news station. As a result, some residents in neighboring communities were asked to evacuate.

In response to the fires, local states of emergency were declared in Augusta, Page, and Shenandoah counties in Virginia. Public schools were also closed in Page County on Thursday.

The fires, which began one day after the official start to spring, are not uncommon this time of year. Wildfire season in the northeast United States typically peaks in April and can continue into May, according to the National Weather Service. The pre-green period across the region, in combination with increasing solar radiation and high pressure systems, can help fuel these fires.

The Virginia Department of Environment Quality issued an air quality health alert on Wednesday, saying that people with heart or lung conditions, including children and older adults, should restrict their outdoor activities.

Crews fought 39 brush fires on Wednesday in Prince William County, in Northern Virginia, just outside Washington, according to local reports. The flames in that area temporarily closed a portion of U.S. 1, a major highway that runs from Florida to Maine.

In West Virginia, where smoke was also being blown, officials worked to contain wildfires across the state, including in Grant, Hardy, and Pendleton counties, WHSV reported.

In the southern portion of West Virginia, at least five brush fires were reported on Wednesday, with some burning hundreds of acres.

Fire crews around the Mid-Atlantic region will again on Thursday be at the ready as weather forecasts call for conditions conducive to more fires.

The Weather Service office in Blacksburg, Va., said that despite diminishing winds Thursday, the combination of low relative humidity, northwesterly winds, and dry fuels will again make for ideal fire weather across southwest Virginia and southeast West Virginia through the evening. Similar statements were also issued for parts of Maryland and North Carolina.

“Residents are urged to exercise caution handling any potential ignition source,” including machinery, cigarettes, and matches, weather officials said.

While the weather will be dry on Thursday, a system is expected to bring soaking rains, with the possibility of flash flooding, to much of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast coastline this weekend.

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