It's been a relatively cool summer so far for firefighters in Northern Virginia.

There was an unusually low number of fires in Alexandria and Arlington in June, and fire officials in Fairfax County said last week that it has been a slower than normal time for fires there, too, although they were unable to provide the specific number of fires in the county in the last two months.

Alexandria has experienced the fewest major fires of the three jurisdictions, with no fires causing damage over $200 reported to The Washington Post since the third week in May.

"There is a definite reason for the drop in fires in Alexandria," said Mike Conner, the Alexandria fire marshal for six years.

"We started a team tracking program on Jan. 1 . . . . We have 10 inspectors covering five sections of the city."

Conner said that if several fires crop up in one of the five sections, the fire department transfers as many inspectors to that area as needed to investigate the problem.

"The team concept has provided us with the ability to effectively track any fire problem that crops up or to trace any other blighting influences that may attribute to fires," Conner said.

From May 20 to June 24, Arlington County experienced a more than 50 percent drop in fires from the same period last year, when 15 fires caused $430,000 in damage.

This year in the five-week period, six fires caused $159,000 in damage.

The figures do not include vehicle fires.

"A lot of times our fires go in cycles, and for some unexplained reason you get a series of incidents where every time you get a call it's a working fire, and then you get a period where you don't get any fires," said Arlington Fire Chief Tom Hawkins.

Although Conner said May and June are "typically a busy time of year for us," with July statistically being the month with the most fires in Alexandria, Hawkins said this is one of the slowest periods for fires in Arlington.

"Late summer is our lightest time of the year," Hawkins said.

The Fairfax County Fire Department reported 11 major fires in May that caused $207,400 in damage.

In June, two major fires were reported, causing $10,400 in damage.

"Normally December, January and February are our worst months for fires," explained Battalion Chief Jim Strickland, administrative assistant to the Fairfax County fire chief.

Strickland said that when warm weather comes, fires drop in the county because so many fires are caused by faulty home heating devices.

Conner said just the opposite is true in Alexandria.

"I attribute {the normal rise in fires during the summer} to children being out of school," he said. "We don't necessarily get a rise in arson, but we see an increase in trash fires and woods fires."

In Arlington, arson declines during the summer "because more people are outside to see potential arsonists," said Steve Hynson, a spokesman for the Arlington Fire Department.