Sunday, February 13, 2011

Va. burning ban takes effect Tuesday ... fire watch for Shenandoah Valley

For those who plan to burn trash, brush, or debris over the next few months, the Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) reminds Commonwealth residents that the annual burning ban will take effect on Tuesday, February 15, 2011:
The Commonwealth’s 4 p.m. Burning Law goes into effect Feb. 15, 2011 – the start of spring fire season in Virginia.

This law prohibits burning before 4 p.m. each day (Feb. 15 – April 30) if the fire is in, or within 300 feet of, woodland, brushland or fields containing dry grass or other flammable materials.

A violation of this law is a Class 3 misdemeanor punishable by up to a $500 fine. In addition to the criminal violation, 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.
Reporter Melinda Williams with the Southwest Times reported that John Miller, director of resource protection at the VDOF, considers the burn ban a helpful tool for foresters:
“This law is one of the most effective tools we have in the prevention of wildfires. Each late winter and early spring, downed trees, branches and leaves become ‘forest fuels’ that increase the danger of a forest fire. 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 spring burning ban was created in the 1940s to lower the number of fires that were more likely at this time of year due to high winds, low humidity, and a build-up of debris on the forest floor.

Conditions for forest fires typically worsen at this time of year in Virginia due to elevated winds, low humidity and a dry layer of leaves having built up on the forest floor over the winter. However, after 4 p.m., winds usually calm down and the humidity climbs to make for safer conditions.

Sunday afternoon a brush fire was reported on the shoulder of I-81 in southern Augusta County near mile marker 206, a reminder of why the burn ban is about to take effect. In Page County, a brush fire got out of control Saturday evening but has now been contained.

Meanwhile, a WHSV TV-3 out of Harrisonburg has a fire alert streaming across its website:
A Fire Weather Watch is in effect for the day on Monday for Shenandoah, Page, Augusta, and Rockingham counties. 20-30 mph sustained with with gusts of 40-50 mph possible. Combined with the low humidity, fire weather conditions are possible.
Fire season has arrived in the Shenandoah Valley.

Cross-posted at Virginia Virtucon

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