AID TOWNSHIP Wayne National Forest officials hope its not the case, but they are concerned this springs forest fire season will be busier and more damaging than recent years.
Coming into this time last year, we werent anywhere near as busy as we are now, David Bostic, fire management officer for the WNFs Ironton District said. The conditions are ripe for fires. It makes us kind of nervous. Hopefully well get into April and get some green up.
Officials have good reason to be concerned. In the last three weeks, 350 acres of forestland mostly in Aid Township have gone up in flames in several separate incidents. One fire four miles east of Lake Vesuvius affected approximately 60 acres.
Another fire that broke out last Wednesday in the Five Forks area covered an additional 187 acres. Yet another fire was reported late last week near Fradd Cemetery.
One hundred firefighters from other states including Oregon, Montana and Indiana were brought in to help battle those blazes. At one point a helicopter unit was brought in to help fight fires from the air.
By Saturday, all but 20 firefighters from Montana were sent home after rainfall helped quell the fires.
The rain (Sunday night) really helped us, WNF Ironton District Ranger Gloria Chrismer said. We had them all contained even before the rain but it helped. We didnt know if we were going to really get any rain with the front coming through.
There have been times before we thought wed get rain and it didnt materialize. Everything looks good right now but weve had a deficit of moisture this year. I dont know what it is that has caused this but it has been a little on the dry side.
The recent fires are considered suspicious and are currently under investigation.
Forestry officials said the ice storm of 2003 isnt helping the current situation. That storm brought down trees and limbs in many areas of Lawrence, Scioto and Gallia counties.
The added woody debris contributes to the extra fuel load for these fires and are hampering efforts to extinguish the fires and keep them from spreading.
While no houses were damaged in any of the forest fires, Bostic said the fires had the potential to damage or destroy nearby dwellings.
One thing people can do is make sure they have good clearance around their house and make sure leaves are cleaned out of their gutters, he said.
Bostic also urged people to alert authorities when they do see smoke or a fire.