Virginia’s 75-day spring wildfire season is set to begin at 4 p.m. on Friday, February 15.The law prohibits burning before 4 p.m. each day until April 30, if the fire is in, or within 300 feet of woodland, brushland or fields containing dry grass or other flammable materials.
Burning is allowed between 4 p.m. and midnight under the state law, but counties and cities may have additional restrictions and you should check with your local officials before burning.
According to Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) records, 95 percent of all wildfires in Virginia are human-caused and more than half are caused by people burning trash and yard debris. Therefore, citizens must stay on high alert especially from now through April 30.
“The 4 p.m. law is one of the most effective tools we have in the prevention of wildfires,” said State Forester Rob Farrell. “By adhering to the law and not burning before 4 p.m., people are less likely to start a fire that threatens them, their property and the forests of Virginia.”
The Virginia 4 p.m. law has existed since 1950 and has proven to be of great value in reducing the risk of wildfires. This is due to the fact that wind speeds tend to decrease after 4 p.m. while humidity levels typically increase; therefore, the chance of fire escaping someone’s control is radically reduced.
Not only is starting a fire before 4 p.m. dangerous during the 75-day spring wildfire season, but it’s also a Class 3 misdemeanor. Individuals can receive up to a $500 fine, and the person responsible for the fire’s escape is financially liable for the cost of suppressing the fire, as well as the damage caused to another’s property.
According to VDOF Director of Emergency Response John Miller, “We are in good shape for the beginning of the fire season, thanks to the record-breaking rains last year and the rain and snow we have already received this year.” However Spring winds, lower humidity and warming temperatures can change conditions very quickly. “One snowstorm or soaking rain can make people forget that the vegetation is dormant and dry this time of year and can become hazardous with only a few days of dry windy weather,” stressed Miller.
To learn more about the 4 p.m. Burn Law, alternatives to burning debris, and the spring wildfire season, visit http://www.dof.virginia.gov/fire/faqs-burning.htm