Virginia’s Burning Law went into effect Feb. 15 — the start of spring fire season in Virginia. The law prohibits burning before 4 p.m. each day until April 30 if the fire is within 300 feet of woodland, brushland or fields containing dry grass or other flammable materials.
“This law is one of the most effective tools we have to prevent wildfires,” said John Miller, director of resource protection at the Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF). “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 burning between 4 p.m. and midnight only, people are less likely to start a fire that threatens them, their property and the forests of Virginia.”
In addition to open burning large piles of leaves and yard waste, debris burning in metal barrels has been the source of wildland fires this year.
“If flames and sparks are flying out of the barrel, that increases the chance they’ll land in dry grass or leaves and start a wildfire,” said Paul Reier, technician in New Kent County. “Be sure the barrel is secure and won’t tip over, causing the fire to spill out. Stay with the debris barrel while the fire is burning, and be sure to properly and safely dispose of the ashes.” Reier adds that metal barrels should be in good condition — not weak with rust or full of holes. A mesh wire screen, with openings of a quarter-inch or less, should cover the top of the barrel.
A violation of the 4 p.m. 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.
To learn more about how to protect yourself and your property, visit dof.virginia.gov.