The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia


March 26, 2014

Don’t get burned

Although it was easy to miss with the latest snowfall, West Virginia’s spring wildfire season has snuck up on us again.

Running from March through May 31, the West Virginia Division of Forestry reminds us of the rules to keep ourselves, our neighbors, our homes and property as safe as possible.

As of this week, the wildfire status was moderate for the eastern half of the state, but in the southern region wildfire status is high, and to the southwest, it is listed as very high.

Until May 31, daytime burning is prohibited from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Outdoor burning is allowed only between the hours of 5 p.m. and 7 a.m.

Additional requirements of the state’s fire laws include staying on-site until the fire is completely extinguished, and only burning vegetative materials like leaves, brush and yard clippings.

If your fire gets away from you, you may escape the flames but possibly not the fines.

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.

- Call 911 immediately if a fire does escape.

- Contact local city government offices for possible burning ordinances when burning within city limits.

Last spring, 548 fires burned 6,807 acres in West Virginia. In 2006, more than a thousand fires burned 17,608 acres.

In 1908, more than 1.7 million acres of forestland in the state were destroyed by fire.

Most of West Virginia wildfires are human-caused, with 51 percent deliberately set, and another 25 percent caused by escaped debris from supposedly contained fires.

So when the urge for spring-cleaning extends to burning brush in your yard or property, we urge everybody to follow the law and keep it under control.

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