Dry weather prompted the Town of Pulaski to issue a ban on open air burning.
As a result of the ban, no open air burning is permitted within the town limits until further notice, said Pulaski Fire Chief Bill Webb. The ban takes effect with the publication of this notice.
According to town code, the ban can remain in place until the fire department determines that dry conditions endangering lives and property within the town no longer exist.
Violation of the ban is a class 1 misdemeanor, punishable by up to 12 months in jail and/or a fine of $1,000.
Governor Bob McDonnell warned Virginians Wednesday that conditions are ripe for wildfires across the Commonwealth.
“Typically, Virginia’s summer climate of high humidity and regular thunderstorms translates into green fields, grass, and trees and a lack of the kind of summer fire seasons experienced by many other states,” McDonnell said. “But that’s simply not the case this year. The extremely hot temperatures, combined with no real rain for several weeks, have turned a lot of things brown, and that means the threat of fire has increased.”
The drought index scale, which Virginia Department of Forestry uses to rank the likelihood of fire danger based on ground moisture, ranges from 0 to 800, where 0 equals total ground saturation and 800 is considered desert-like conditions.
“On the drought index scale, most of Virginia is in the 500+ range right now, and we should be closer to 200 during the summer months,” the governor noted.
“The chances of wildfires breaking out are much higher right now. Anyone using machinery that can cause a spark, including lawn mowers and grain harvesting equipment, or be a source of intense heat, such as a vehicle exhaust system, must be aware of this threat. Something as seemingly benign as parking your car or truck on a patch of dry grass could result in a fire that burns hundreds of acres of field or forest. I urge all Virginians to be aware of the increased fire danger we currently face, and act accordingly to help prevent destructive and expensive wildfires,” McDonnell said.
He added that other activities, such as towing a trailer, welding, cooking at a camp site or playing with sparklers/fireworks, are just as likely to result in a wildfire at this time as burning debris/trash, which is the top cause of wildfires in Virginia.
State Forester Carl Garrison said the drought index hasn’t yet reached a level at which the Department of Forestry will officially enact a burn ban. However, he suggested cities and counties closely watch local conditions and take whatever proactive measures deemed necessary.
“We will continue to monitor the situation and should a ban be necessary in the days or weeks ahead, we will make that announcement at the appropriate time. At this time we encourage everyone to be aware of this danger and to keep water or an extinguisher handy if anything you are doing could ignite a wildfire. The life or property you are saving could be your own.”
Any damage done to the property of others is the responsibility of the person who started a wildfire. To learn more about Virginia’s wildfire laws, go to www.dof.virginia.gov.