CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Despite snow being in the forecast, officials will remain on alert through the end of Thursday for the possibility of forest fires.
The National Weather Service issued a red flag warning Wednesday morning. That means that low humidity and high winds could cause a small forest fire to become a large fire quickly, Meteorologist Andy Roche said.
The red flag warning could be extended through Thursday evening, Roche said.
"Any precipitation should be minimal," he said.
Wind gusts could reach 20 mph today, which could drive any flames through woodlands quickly, said Roche said.
Kanawha County Fire Coordinator C.W. Sigman expressed exasperation that the area had high water warnings at the beginning of the week and fire warnings a few days later.
"I took my swift water rescue gear out of my truck and put in my fire gear," Sigman said Wednesday.
He pointed out that streams in the northern portion of the county were overflowing from rain on Monday and that Roane County canceled schools because of the threat of high water.
However, on Wednesday, Sigman was asking the state Division of Forestry for a total ban on any outdoor burning, he said. The state is currently under spring burning restrictions, which runs 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. March 1 to May 31.
The Division of Forestry is exploring whether to recommend the governor institute a total burn ban, Cook said.
The recent precipitation did not affect the red flag warning because of the high wind gusts moving through the area, Roche said.
The high winds dry out fuel for fires, such as the upper level of branches and leaves on the forest floor, he said.
"The dirt may still be damp, but dirt doesn't burn anyway," he said.
This variation in weather, and its effects, are typical for this time of year, Cook said.
The danger of spreading wildfires should decrease on Friday when the wind speed should weaken, Roche said.
Despite the serious weather conditions, there have been few wildfires in the state thus far, Cook said.
A small wildfire was reported in the Leatherwood Road area of Clendenin Tuesday evening, he said.
The fire burned about 10 acres of woodland, he said. Sigman was unsure what caused the fire in the Clendenin area.
Firefighters from Clendenin and Pinch quickly extinguished the blaze, Sigman said. The fire was just off a road and easily accessible, Cook said.
Cook warned residents who planned to burn brush piles in the near future to exercise extreme caution. Many people tend to burn brush piles of debris collected while cleaning their yards of winter rubbish, he said.
"The biggest problem we have is when people go out and burn their brush piles on really windy days and it gets away from them," he said.
Brush fires should never be left unattended, he said. A safety strip 10 feet around the debris pile should be cleared of all burnable material to help prevent the fire from spreading, he said.