Wildfire season begins Sunday

The 75-day spring wildfire season in Virginia begins this Sunday (Feb. 15), when the 4 p.m. Burn Law (which allows burning only between 4 p.m. and midnight) goes into effect. Citizens are reminded to be extra careful with open-air fires from now through April 30.

“Wildfires in the Commonwealth are very weather dependent,” said state forester Bettina Ring. “Low humidity, dry fuels — such as leaves, grass and tree limbs — and gusty winds are prevalent this time of year. Even a relatively small fire can quickly get out of control and spread fast.”

Ring said that 37 percent of the wildfires that occur in Virginia each year are caused by people burning trash or debris. “It’s the No. 1 cause year in and year out,” she said. “And these fires threaten the lives of thousands of Virginians. Last year alone, more than 2,000 homes and other structures were protected by the Virginia Department of Forestry’s wildland firefighters.”

According to VDOF records, more than 95 percent of wildfires in the Commonwealth each year are caused by humans and thus are preventable. The state forester wants Virginians to know that there are things they can do to reduce the risk of wildfires.

“The best thing people can do is to obey the law by not burning trash or debris before 4 p.m. each day during spring fire season,” Ring said. “Virginia’s 4 p.m. law has been in place since 1950 and is one of the best tools we have for reducing the threat of wildfires. Because humidity levels typically increase and wind speeds usually decrease after 4 p.m., the likelihood of a fire escaping someone’s control is reduced.”

But at any time of day, says John Miller, VDOF’s director of resource protection, “If wind speed is in excess of 20 miles per hour and humidity levels are below 30 percent, please don’t light a fire. The chances are high that the fire will escape — and that’s a life safety issue for you, your family and your neighbors.”

To learn more about the spring wildfire season, the 4 p.m. Burn Law and alternatives to debris burning, visit www.dof.virginia.gov.

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