Will Late Autumn Bring an Increased in Brush Fire Activity?

Oak Hill, WV (WOAY-TV): Rainfall across southern West Virginia has been pretty close to average so far this year, but we’ve hit a slump going into October.

The New River level is slightly below average and the leaves are starting to come off the trees. So, with that in mind, are fire officials going to have their work cut out for them as we enter the height of the brushfire season in November?

The autumn seasons of 1978, 1981, 1991 and 2001 had the most brushfires in the New River Gorge National Forest. When we look at the rainfall trends for those years, amounts were appreciably less than average.

So, the common theme is when we have a very dry year, regardless of how much rain that we get in November, we tend to have an uptick in the amount of activity, wildfire activity across the region.

Now as we look at the teleconnection patterns, each of the most active brush fire autumns were in either a neutral ENSO, meaning neither a La Nina or El Nino, a positive phase of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation and a neutral Indian Dipole. This year it’s a totally different ballgame. We’re in a strong El Nino, a negative phase of the PDO, in a positive phase of the IOD.

We will get rain in November, but it will likely rank slightly drier than average. While there is an elevated risk for brush fires, we are not expecting the magnitude of wildfires that we had in the four years with the busiest activity across the New River Gorge.

A couple of reminders as we move into the height of the brush fire season: Remove dead shrubbery around your house to mitigate the chance that any wildfires could spread into your region. No bonfires or burning on red flag days, which is when the weather service issues a Red Flag Warning or a Fire Weather Watch. These days bring a higher potential for brush fires to spread. Additionally, the burning ban from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. continues through December 31.

Our Storm Watch 4 weather team will keep you abreast of any fire weather watches and red flag warnings.

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