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Citizens should heed burn ban

Debris burning is the number one cause of wildfires in Virginia, according to the Virginia Department of Forestry.
Even within the past week, David Jones, who serves Pulaski, Giles and Wythe County through the Virginia Department of Forestry, has witnessed several fires caused by unattended burning debris, including a fire that spread over 44 open acres and an additional eight acres of woods in Bland County, and a fire in Pulaski County that spread to several acres within one hour.
That’s why Jones is urging citizens to heed the Virginia Department of Forestry’s 4 p.m. Law or "burn ban," which prohibits open air burning before 4 p.m. if the fire is within 300 feet of the woods or dry grass, which could carry the fire to the woods.
The 4 p.m. Law is an annual ban that starts February 15 and ends April 30, but Jones noted that date could be extended in certain conditions.
Violators of the 4 p.m. Law could be fined up to $500 for a class 3 misdemeanor, in addition to the cost of extinguishing the fire.
Jones added that those who leave debris fires unattended could be fined up to $250 for a class 4 misdemeanor.
The 4 p.m. Law was adopted during the 1940s to reduce the number of wildfires which occurred each spring, as during this time of the year, Virginia traditionally has an increased number of fires, according to the Virginia Department of Forestry’s website (www.dof.virginia.gov).
The website states that during the winter months, winds are usually elevated, the relative humidity is lower and the fuels on the forest floor are extremely dry.
However, after 4 p.m., winds usually calm down and the relative humidity levels are on the increase, both of which reduce the potential for a debris fire or any outdoor open air fire to escape control.
Jones said that the department advises people not to burn if the relative humidity level is less than 30 percent and that otherwise, they would be "asking for trouble."
He also said that in many cases, people think that because they don’t see smoke, the fire is out, so they leave the area unattended, but he said that the ashes could continue to smolder and burn and still have potential to spread.
Jones recommended that citizens take the time to carefully pre-plan before they start an outdoor fire. He suggested that they contact their local dispatcher and let them know about their plans to start a fire, and give them information about their location and what they are burning, so that if a problem does arise, the dispatcher is aware of the situation.
In addition, he suggested that before lighting the fire, citizens should turn on their water hose with the nozzle and have it within reach so that if the fire gets out of control, they will be ready to quickly react with the hose.
Jones also recommends that citizens be aware of their proximity to their neighbors and other buildings close by, because if the fire reaches their neighbors’ property or smoke from the fire enters another house or building and there are damages, they could be in for a law suit.
In addition to taking caution while burning debris, Jones said that smokers who throw their cigarettes out while driving could potentially start a fire, if the time, place and conditions were right. He noted that if smokers are caught in this act, they could be fined up to $1,000 and could possibly be sentenced to six months in jail in addition to the fine.

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Citizens should heed burn ban

Debris burning is the number one cause of wildfires in Virginia, according to the Virginia Department of Forestry.
Even within the past week, David Jones, who serves Pulaski, Giles and Wythe County through the Virginia Department of Forestry, has witnessed several fires caused by unattended burning debris, including a fire that spread over 44 open acres and an additional eight acres of woods in Bland County, and a fire in Pulaski County that spread to several acres within one hour.
That’s why Jones is urging citizens to heed the Virginia Department of Forestry’s 4 p.m. Law or "burn ban," which prohibits open air burning before 4 p.m. if the fire is within 300 feet of the woods or dry grass, which could carry the fire to the woods.
The 4 p.m. Law is an annual ban that starts February 15 and ends April 30, but Jones noted that date could be extended in certain conditions.
Violators of the 4 p.m. Law could be fined up to $500 for a class 3 misdemeanor, in addition to the cost of extinguishing the fire.
Jones added that those who leave debris fires unattended could be fined up to $250 for a class 4 misdemeanor.
The 4 p.m. Law was adopted during the 1940s to reduce the number of wildfires which occurred each spring, as during this time of the year, Virginia traditionally has an increased number of fires, according to the Virginia Department of Forestry’s website (www.dof.virginia.gov).
The website states that during the winter months, winds are usually elevated, the relative humidity is lower and the fuels on the forest floor are extremely dry.
However, after 4 p.m., winds usually calm down and the relative humidity levels are on the increase, both of which reduce the potential for a debris fire or any outdoor open air fire to escape control.
Jones said that the department advises people not to burn if the relative humidity level is less than 30 percent and that otherwise, they would be "asking for trouble."
He also said that in many cases, people think that because they don’t see smoke, the fire is out, so they leave the area unattended, but he said that the ashes could continue to smolder and burn and still have potential to spread.
Jones recommended that citizens take the time to carefully pre-plan before they start an outdoor fire. He suggested that they contact their local dispatcher and let them know about their plans to start a fire, and give them information about their location and what they are burning, so that if a problem does arise, the dispatcher is aware of the situation.
In addition, he suggested that before lighting the fire, citizens should turn on their water hose with the nozzle and have it within reach so that if the fire gets out of control, they will be ready to quickly react with the hose.
Jones also recommends that citizens be aware of their proximity to their neighbors and other buildings close by, because if the fire reaches their neighbors’ property or smoke from the fire enters another house or building and there are damages, they could be in for a law suit.
In addition to taking caution while burning debris, Jones said that smokers who throw their cigarettes out while driving could potentially start a fire, if the time, place and conditions were right. He noted that if smokers are caught in this act, they could be fined up to $1,000 and could possibly be sentenced to six months in jail in addition to the fine.

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