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Snow Still Means Proper Fire Safety

"Snow, this time of the year, tends to give people a false sense of security.”

Winchester, Va. -- The Four-State area has seen an enormous amount of snow this year, but that doesn't mean we're exempt from forest fires.

"This time of the year is the most dangerous, because of the high winds, and low relative humidity that the weather systems bring this time of the year,” said Gerald Crowell, a Forester with the Virginia Department of Forestry.

Add to the fact that there are few leaves on the trees to block out sunlight, once the snow melts, dead trees and grass are quickly dried out.

"In the Eastern United States, this is the time of year we have forest fires. Out in the western states - California and Rocky Mountains - their fire season is in the summer in fall,” Crowell said.

Snow does help, however. On average, forestry officials in Virginia say they deal with about 50 to 60 fires a year. But thanks to the amounts of snowfall in recent years, "last year, because we've had cool damp springs, we've dealt with about 25 to 30 fires each year,” said Crowell.

Despite its help, snow also gives off the wrong impression.

"Snow, this time of the year, tends to give people a false sense of security. They should still be aware, particularly for large brush piles, that [while] they may burn them legally and safely with eight inches of snow on the ground, [embers] could smolder or hold hot coals for several days or weeks, or longer,” said Crowell.

He attributed a recent brush fire last week in Virginia to this very mistake.

It's illegal to burn anything in Maryland or Virginia between the hours of midnight and 4:00 pm, until April 31st.

In West Virginia, it's illegal to burn anything from 7:00 am to 5:00 pm until May 31st.

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