CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Following a series of fires throughout West Virginia, the Division of Forestry (WVDOF) is urging West Virginians to take extreme caution while burning outdoors, especially throughout spring fire season.
On Wednesday, March 30, WVDOF fire personnel, with assistance from local fire departments, responded to active fires in Cabell, Putnam, Boone, Lincoln, McDowell, Mercer, Summers and Fayette counties. These fires occurred in the midst of a Red Flag warning issued by the National Weather Service which ended at 8 p.m. on Wednesday. Many of the fires are still active today, with WVDOF personnel and fire departments on site working to control them.
A Red Flag warning means that fires are likely and can spread quickly, usually due to warm temperatures, low humidity and strong winds. While this warning is in effect, outdoor burning is highly discouraged.
“Even without a Red Flag warning in effect, it is very important that spring fire season guidelines be followed,” said Jeremy Jones, assistant state forester for the WVDOF. “Since the beginning of the fire season, more than 7,390 acres of land have burned throughout West Virginia. At least 39 percent of these fires have been caused by debris burning.”
Statewide burning restrictions will remain in effect until the close of the spring fire season on May 31. The WVDOF’s burning guidelines include:
- Burning is prohibited during fire season from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. If burning has occurred during permitted hours (5 p.m. to 7 a.m.), the fire must be completely extinguished by 7 a.m.
- All fires must have a ring or safety strip.
- The safety strip itself must be cleared of burnable material and be at least 10 feet wide.
- Fire must be attended until completely extinguished.
- Only vegetative materials such as leaves, brush and yard clippings are permitted to be burnt (no trash).
- Spark-throwing machinery such as power shovels or sawmills operating on land subject to fire must contain an adequate spark arrestor.
- Inflammable waste disposal areas must annually remove all grass, brush, debris, and other inflammable material adjacent to disposal areas to provide adequate protection, preventing the escape of fire to adjacent lands.
Additionally, commercial burning during prohibited periods requires a permit, which are issued by local WVDOF offices. A permit is required for each commercial burning site.
Any person or company who causes a fire on any grass or forest land must reimburse the state for costs to suppress the fire. Fines for forest fires caused by negligence range from $100 to $1,000 with an additional civil penalty of $200. Violations of fire season guidelines can be reported to the WVDOF’s Special Operations and Enforcement Unit by calling 304-558-2788 and selecting option 9, or on the website at wvforestry.com/report-a-violation.