As wildfire season approaches, there is expected to be an increased threat in 2017 in some areas of Virginia due to a lingering lack of rain, minimal snowfall and growth in urban interface areas.
More than 60 percent of Virginia’s annual average of 1,000 wildfires occur in the spring – with March and April historically being the most active months.
To help reduce the number of wildfires this time of year, the Commonwealth’s 4 p.m. Burning Law goes into effect February 15. The law prohibits open burning between the hours of midnight and 4 p.m. each day. Burning is permitted between the hours of 4 p.m. and midnight, but officials at the Virginia Department of Forestry caution people that, even though burning is allowed from 4 p.m. to midnight, they not burn if the weather conditions are such that a fire will likely escape. Such conditions include low humidity, warm temperatures and winds over 10 miles per hour. The law remains in effect each year until April 30.
“The 4 p.m. Burning Law is one of the most important tools we have in the prevention of wildfires in Virginia,” said John Miller, VDOF’s director of fire and emergency response. “The number one cause of wildfires in the Commonwealth is people burning yard debris and/or trash, and the 4 p.m. law goes a long way toward reducing the risk associated with wildfires each year.”
A violation of the 4 p.m. Burning Law is a Class 3 misdemeanor punishable by up to a $500 fine. In addition to the criminal violation, however, those who allow a fire to escape are liable for the cost of suppressing the fire as well as any damage caused to others’ property.
As the population of Virginia continues to grow, every new home being built in the wildland-urban interface brings new challenges.