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Fairfax County under Red Flag Warning for possible fires today

The National Weather Service has issued a Red Flag Warning for Fairfax County and the rest of the D.C. region today, signaling that weather conditions could breed fires.

The warning will be in effect from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. It replaces a Fire Weather Watch that had been issued yesterday and was scheduled to begin at noon today.

“A Red Flag Warning means that critical fire weather conditions are either occurring now, or will shortly,” the NWS says. “A combination of strong winds, low relative humidity, and warm temperatures can contribute to extreme fire behavior.”

Here is more from the alert:

The National Weather Service in Baltimore MD/Washington has issued a Red Flag Warning for low humidity and gusty winds, which is in effect from 11 AM this morning to 6 PM EST this evening. The Fire Weather Watch is no longer in effect.

* WINDS…Southwest 15 to 20 mph with gusts up to 30 mph.

* RELATIVE HUMIDITY…20 to 30 percent.

* IMPACTS…Critical fire weather conditions are likely to develop today. All outdoor burning is discouraged, as fires could rapidly spread and become uncontrollable.

* FUEL MOISTURE…5 to 8 percent for fine fuels.

Virginia already prohibits open-air burning before 4 p.m. for fires that are within 300 feet of the woods or dry grass which can carry the fire to the woods. The 4 p.m. Law takes effect every year from Feb. 15 to April 30, since the combination of elevated winds and low humidity traditionally results in increased numbers of fires, according to the Virginia Department of Forestry.

“You are allowed to burn between 4 p.m and midnight as long as you take proper care and precaution and attend your fire at all times,” the Department of Forestry says.

Evidence of the heightened risk of fires was on display last night in Vienna, where a house fire caused by improperly discarded smoking materials resulted in $116,400 in damages, the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department reported.

“These conditions are ripe for an improperly discarded cigarette/smoking material, thrown into mulch or other brush, to spark a significant fire that can then spread to homes and buildings,” the FCFRD said. “Many times, these fires have the potential to spread to homes and buildings that are close by.”

The fire department says cigarettes and other smoking materials should be discarded in an ashtray or bucket of sand, and butts and ashes should be completely doused with water before being thrown away. Cigarettes should never be disposed of in mulch, shrubbery, or potted plant soil, which can be highly flammable in dry weather.

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