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Heavy rain will not end threat of wildfires

Friday - 3/11/2011, 10:25am  ET

Hank Silverberg, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - This may be hard to imagine with flooding, high rivers and streams and all the rain that has fallen across the region over the past few days, but the threat of wildfires remains strong.

While long soaking rain is good to quench the thirst of dry forests and grassland, John Campbell, a spokesman with Virginia's Department of Forestry, says the soaking effect won't last long.

"You end up with lower humidity and high winds and it's like running a hair dryer over your hair, all that wet you got from the shower, it's all dry again," Campbell says.

Between Feb. 14 and Feb. 21, there were 293 wildfires that consumed 8,436 acres, including one massive fire in Dale City that could be seen for miles, causing closures on Interstate 95.

In an average year, about 10,000 to 12,000 acres of forest or grassland are consumed in wildfires.

Campbell says everyone should be very careful with fire, including cooking on the backyard barbecue grill and discarding cigarette butts.

He says people should not be fooled by a rainy day.

"If you get the winds come in at 20, 30, 40 miles per hour, they can dry it out very quickly," Campbell says.

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(Copyright 2011 by WTOP. All rights reserved.)