The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

September 27, 2012

Control the burn

Fall fire season begins Oct. 1; only you can prevent wildfires

— Monday marks the beginning of outdoor burning season in West Virginia.

The West Virginia Division of Forestry refers to the period between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31 as the state’s fall forest fire season.

With the convenience of burning your own brush and yard waste comes great responsibility.

If a fire you have started is allowed to escape and it causes a wildfire or forest fire, you will be subject to fines ranging from $100 to $1,000. An additional civil penalty of $200 also will be assessed against you.

So be mindful of the following, from the West Virginia Division of Forestry:

— During these next three months, daytime burning is prohibited from the hours of 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Outdoor burning is permitted only between the hours of 5 p.m. and 7 a.m.

— State law requires a ring or safety strip around outdoor fires to keep the fire from spreading into the woods. This safety strip must be cleared of all burnable material and be at least 10 feet wide completely around the debris pile.

— Stay on-site until the fire is completely extinguished, and burn only vegetative materials like leaves, brush and yard clippings.

Additionally, the Division of Forestry offers these tips for safe outdoor burning:

— Put debris in several small piles instead of one large one.

— Never burn on dry, windy days.

— Select a safe place away from overhead power lines, phone lines or other obstructions and where the fire cannot spread into the woods or weedy or brushy areas.

— Clear at least a 10-foot area around the fire and make sure the area is clear of all burnable material.

— Have water and tools on hand to extinguish anything that may escape the burn area.

— Be conscientious of neighbors and don’t burn debris that produces a lot of smoke at times when smoke does not rise. If the smoke spreads out near the ground instead of rising, put out the fire and burn another time.

— Stay with the fire at all times until it is completely out. Leaving a fire unattended for any length of time is illegal.

— Call 911 immediately if a fire does escape.

Too often our local fire departments, many times volunteers, are called upon to answer calls of illegal outdoor burns.

Besides putting the men at risk, this also pulls them away from other necessary duties and spends their limited funds and resources unnecessarily.

That’s very unfortunate.

Destroying our forests due to a careless act is avoidable, with some reasonable precautions as spelled out here.

West Virginia is known for its picturesque woods, mountains and forests.

Let’s do our part to ensure that our “Wild, Wonderful, West Virginia” stays as beautiful as ever.