Statewide burn ban continues through end of April

By Michael Campbell, News Editor

DINWIDDIE – Springtime has settled into the Central and Southside Virginia area over the past several weeks, but, with the blooming of flowers and gardens comes the annual safety-oriented tradition of the state’s burn ban.

Through April 30 until after 4:00 p.m. daily, no burning is allowed if the fire is in or within 300 feet of woodland, brushland, or a field containing dry grass or other flammable material.

Additionally, during the burn ban, it is unlawful to leave a fire unattended if the fire is within 150 feet of woodlands or areas with flammable materials, and those regulations also cover campfires, brush piles, leaves, brush and anything capable of spreading fire, with violators facing a $500 fine, along with court costs, and fire suppression costs if the fire escapes.

One thing that heightens the fire risk across Virginia is the relatively dry start to the year much of the commonwealth has had. According to data from the United States Department of Agriculture, nearly two-thirds of the state are considered “abnormally dry” in the department’s drought monitor, with another 40 percent in the midst of a moderate drought, mainly focused just west of Chesterfield and Dinwiddie and north through much of Nothern Virginia.

This time last year, Virginia was clear of any sort of drought, according to their data.

After recent rains that provided some soaking to the dry grounds in the region, some question if they are able to burn without penalty. For officials, they say, technically, you can, but issue a warning.

“Technically, as long as the grasses, leaves and pine straw, considered fine fuels, are wet and not flammable, the law does not apply and you could burn,” officials with the Virginia Department of Forestry said. “However, as soon as those fuels dry out and become flammable, then you are prohibited from burning and any fire you have must be completely extinguished or you will be in violation of the law.”

“Light showers and events that only bring a minor amount of rain will do very little to ease the drought conditions and with just a little bit of sunshine and wind the fine fuels will dry out quickly and once again become flammable,” they continued.

With the ban scheduled to run through April 30, officials ask, if you must burn, to contact your local fire department or state department of forestry office, be mindful of nearby power lines, trees, and structure, steer clear of all flammable materials, such as dry leaves and grass, have water and hand tools, such as a shovel or rake, nearby, and be sure to burn when the humidity is high and wind is calm.

They also ask those burning to ensure they stay with the fire until it is completely out.

As of late last month, the Virginia Department of Forestry said they have suppressed 25 wildfires that burned a total of 112 acres, leaving one home and an outbuilding damaged.

Copyright 2017 by Womack Publishing

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