CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — The number of wildfires in West Virginia nearly doubled in the first three months of this year compared to the same period of a year ago, forestry officials said.

The state reported 312 wildfires and nearly 3,000 acres burned between Jan. 1 and March 25. During the same period in 2020, there were were 158 fires and 632 acres burned, the Division of Forestry said in a news release.

Jon T. Wilson, a service forester for Doddridge and Tyler counties, said the increase in fire activity can be attributed to drier weather conditions in March.

"One dry and windy March afternoon can dry the fuels in the forest and ready them for combustion," he said.

Over the past 10 years, debris burning is responsible for more than one-third of all state wildfires.

During the spring fire season, which runs through May 31, outdoor burning is prohibited from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

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