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Dry weather and sweltering temperatures have created an atmosphere throughout much of Virginia that may increase the likelihood of wildfires igniting, Gov. Bob McDonnell said in a statement Wednesday.
The humid conditions and summer thunderstorms that often mark this season in the state have been largely absent this year. As a result, there's more brown brush on the ground that can easily spark.
"The extremely hot temperatures, combined with no real rain for several weeks, have turned a lot of things brown, and that means the threat of fire has increased," the governor said.
A drought scale monitored by the Virginia Department of Forestry places much of the state in the 500 range. The scale ranges from 0 to 800, with the low end representing "total ground saturation" and the high end reflecting "desert-like conditions." A typical summer score is in the 200 range.
"Anyone using machinery that can cause a spark, including lawn mowers and grain harvesting equipment, or can be a source of intense heat, such as a vehicle exhaust system, must be aware of this threat."
Other actions that could spark a wildfire include towing a trailer, welding, cooking at campgrounds, setting off fireworks and burning trash, which is the top cause of Virginia wildfires.
The state has not imposed a burn ban at this point, though that remains a possibility.