Fire Weather Watch issued in Northern Virginia

The National Weather Service issued a fire weather watch for parts of Northern Virginia this afternoon.

Arlington, Alexandria, and Fairfax are among those jurisdictions impacted by the fire weather watch.

In , a fire weather watch is announced when there is potential for a red flag warning to be issued in the near future. A red flag warning is issued when relative humidity is less than 30%, wind speed is over 20 miles per hour, and temperatures are above 40 degrees.

A watch is also issued so land managers, such as National Park Service campsite managers, and fire officials can call attention to increased fire danger in the area when weather conditions support extreme fire danger, according to the National Weather Service.

The National Weather Service indicates Arlington, Alexandria, and Fairfax are among the areas affected by the enhanced potential for spread of wildfires.

Gov. Glenn Youngkin declared a state of emergency on Nov. 7 in response to two fires in Madison and Patrick counties. These fires, plus the Matts Creek wildfire near Lynchburg, continue to pose a threat to public health in Northern Virginia.

The weather watch comes as the area currently has “” drought conditions, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

Luis Rosa, meteorologist for the NOAA, said there will be dry, breezy conditions, with smoke making its way to the area this afternoon accompanying wind from the southwest.

“Outdoor burning is not recommended tomorrow anywhere in the region,” Rosa said.

Rosa said the low humidity and strong winds are a recipe for the spread of wildfires, which is why he recommends limiting outdoor grilling, bonfires, and fireworks this weekend.

Lindsey Long, a community forestry specialist with the Virginia Department of Forestry, said as long as community members practice fire safety, common fall activities involving fire do not have to be off the table.

“It’s really important to watch any fires that you do start,” Long said. “Make sure you’re doing any proper steps to put out any fires if you do start them.”

These steps include clearing all flammable material away from burn areas and making water and tools readily available to extinguish the fire in case of emergency, according to the United States Geological Survey, Environmental Protection Agency and the National Park Service.

A , created by these organizations, shows the counties in Virginia where fires are not permitted at this time.

Shawn Maddox, vice president of the Virginia Fire Prevention Association, calls them “burn bans.” He said weather conditions similar to those in Northern Virginia – strong winds, low humidity and dryness – prompt local authorities to enact these bans.

“It is just to reduce the risk of fire,” Maddox said.

Arlington resident William Richardson said he has never had any experience with fire in the Northern Virginia area. However, a fire weather watch did not shock him.

“I know that we’ve had very little rain here,” Richardson said. “I’m familiar with the Canada problem and West Coast problem, but all I know is that we have not had much rain.”

Both Madison and Culpeper counties near Northern Virginia have issued “burn bans.”

Lauren Spiers

Before pursuing my master’s in journalism from AU, I interned at WTVR-CBS 6 where I wrote scripts and worked on the assignment desk. I developed TV news packages as a broadcast reporter at VCU. My articles were published in the blog and magazine at non-profit The Borgen Project.

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