There have been a number of wildfires contained in the western part of Virginia over the past month. Due to weather conditions, available fuel, and increased recreational activity, the chance of wildfires this time of year increases.
From Wednesday through April 30, Virginia’s 4 p.m. burn law will be in effect.
The law prohibits burning before 4 p.m. if the fire is within 300 feet of woodlands, brush, or fields with dry grass or other flammable materials.
Brad Carico, the Regional Forester with the Virginia Department of Forestry, says, “During the day when the temperatures are getting warmer, as you get into the 2, 3, 4 o’clock time frame, the humidity is usually at its lowest during that time frame and it is the most dangerous time to be burning because the fires can start and spread rapidly at that point.”
Although Virginia has a wildfire season in the fall, more than 60% of wildfires happen in the spring.
The Commonwealth usually averages around 700 wildfires a year.
The threat of wildfires greatly increases in March and April because of rising temperatures and windy conditions. Just last week, a brush fire in Bedford County spread so quickly that it impacted about 120 acres.
Violations of the burning law are a class 3 misdemeanor, punishable with a fine of up to $500. If the fire ends up spreading, you can be responsible for the cost of putting the fire out and any further damages.
“One thing that people need to be aware of is that if they start a fire and they negligently let it get out and it damages property, they could be liable to pay the suppression cost of putting that fire out. That can quickly run into tens of thousands of dollars,” says Carico.
In addition to the statewide burning law, individual cities and counties may have other laws, bans, or restrictions.
If you do need to burn this time of year, officials say to wait until after 4 p.m., keep an eye on weather conditions, and keep a shovel, rake, or hose nearby to control the fire.
Something else to keep in mind is the Forest Service is conducting prescribed burns throughout the month of February. Planned burns will be in Montgomery County near Brush Mountain, Giles County near Kelly Flats, Craig County near Mill Creek, Sinking Creek, Potts Mountain, and North Mountain, Pulaski County near Tract Mountain, and Botetourt County near Price Mountain.
Source: WSLS News 10