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Rain dampens brush-fire threat

Nov. 12, 2012 @ 11:05 PM

HUNTINGTON -- Drenching rains extinguished area brush fires Monday afternoon and evening, bringing to an end a few days of dry weather and low humidity.

That meant some measure of relief for firefighters, such as Assistant Chief Tate Tooley of the Rome Volunteer Fire Department. His crew was called out Monday to a 3:21 a.m. fire off Lawrence County 402.

Initial reports indicated a brush fire was endangering two structures, but investigators believe just the opposite occurred. Tooley said flames burned two mobile homes to the ground and quickly spread across 20 to 25 acres of land.

"For it to spread on up the hill from where those structures were, it is a testament to how dry it was and how quickly the fire was able to spread," he said. "The weather over the weekend really made a difference in how dry the conditions became."

That incident was just one of several brush fires reported since Saturday in the region, including at least five catalogued by Wayne County 911. Two of that county's more persistent fires required off and on attention from Saturday through Monday morning.

Meteorologist Greg Guillot, of the National Weather Service, blamed a recent stretch of dry weather and low humidity.

Statistics from his agency show the Tri-State had received just 0.17 of an inch in rain since Superstorm Sandy. Sinking humidity levels then fell below 30 percent Saturday and Sunday, allowing any remaining moisture to quickly evaporate, Guillot said.

That was especially true for smaller vegetation, such as grass and foliage as Sunday's humidity dropped to 21 percent.

"It's not unprecedented, but it's certainly on the low side for our area," Guillot said of that humidity level.

Wind speeds never necessitated a red flag warning, however the threat of some wind mixing with the existing conditions Sunday prompted the National Weather Service to issue a special statement concerning the enhanced fire danger.

The most persistent fires in Wayne County were reported along the Right Fork of Millers Road and at the intersection of U.S. 52 and W.Va. 152. Both fires started Saturday and continued to burn to some degree Monday morning.

Other fires in Wayne County burned along Montgomery Ridge near Dunlow and Fort Gay, the 4200 block of 8th Street Road near Lavalette and the 1700 block of Bartram Fork Road in East Lynn.

Lawrence County also reported a Sunday brush fire in Perry Township.

Cabell County 911 noted a small brush fire Thursday along Interstate 64, but did not mention any other fires from this past weekend.

The extended forecast calls for a return to sunny, dry conditions with high temperatures reaching into the 50s through early next week.

Safety tips to prevent brush fires

The National Fire Protection Association offers these tips to prevent brush, grass and forest fires.

Place cigarette butts in metal containers. Do not throw them on the ground or into vegetation.

Keep at least 18 inches between mulch beds and building materials that can burn.

Call the local fire department or municipality before outdoor or open air burning. This includes campfires, brush fires, fire pits, chimineas, and outdoor fireplaces. You may not be permitted to do outdoor burning in some municipalities and during some seasons.

Closely attend all outdoor fires. Be sure to put out the fire completely before leaving.

Avoid burning on windy, dry days. When conditions are windy or dry, it is too easy for open burning to spread out of control.

Do not use gasoline or other flammable or combustible liquids to burn brush, trash, or other waste.

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