USA — The Commonwealth of Virginia’s 4 p.m. burning law goesinto effect on Feb. 15 – the start of spring fire season in Virginia.
This law prohibits burning before 4 p.m. each day from Feb. 15 through April30, and applies to fires in, or within 300 feet of, woodland, brush land orfields containing dry grass or other flammable materials.
The 4 p.m. burning law is one of the most effective tools we have in theprevention of wildfires. Each late winter and early spring, downed trees,branches and leaves become “forest fuels” that increase the danger ofa forest fire.
By adhering to the law and not burning before 4 p.m., people are less likely tostart a fire that threatens them, their property and the forests of Virginia.
In 2006, there were 1,267 wildfires that burned 13,664 acres of forest land inthe commonwealth. This was a 64-percent increase in the number (773) of wildlandfires, and a 181 percent increase in the acreage burned during 2005.
Most of the fires occurred during the very dry spring. Wildland fires in 2006 inVirginia caused $8.5 million in damage to timber and $2.8 million in damage tohomes (14) and other structures (48).
If not for the suppression efforts of VDOF employees and our local firefighters,882 homes and other structures would have been damaged by these wildfires.
The leading cause of forest fires in Virginia is carelessness. An unattendedfire, a discarded cigarette or a single match can ignite the dry fuels that areso prevalent in the early spring. Add a few days of dry, windy conditions and anescaped wildfire can quickly turn into a raging blaze.
Of the 1,267 wildfires last year, 462 were caused by people burning debris oryard waste, 189 were arson, 93 were equipment use, 72 were due to smoking, 67were started by children, 55 were caused by lightning, 33 were related to therailroads, 13 were campfires and the rest were classified as miscellaneouscauses.
Areas affected by hurricanes, tornadoes or strong thunderstorms are ofparticular concern to the Virginia Department of Forestry. In addition tocreating more forest fuel, large numbers of downed trees make firefighting moredifficult and dangerous.
People living in or near these areas are especially at risk. To quote SmokeyBear, “Only you can prevent wildfires.”
For more information on what you can do to protect yourself and your property,how to become “fire wise,” or to pick up a complete copy of the ForestFire Laws, contact your local office of the Virginia Department of Forestry. Youcan also log on to www.dof.virginia.gov , and click “Can I burn…?”