When West Virginia’s spring forest fire season began March 1, most residents probably were more concerned about keeping wood in the stove than any burning of outside brush piles. However, now that a few 60-degree days are making their appearance to let us know that, yes, spring will again arrive, people must remember the outside burning restrictions.
Between March 1 and May 31, no outside burning is permitted between the hours of 7 a.m. and 5 p.m. The law does make certain exceptions – if there is at least an inch of snow on the ground, or for camp and cooking fires. However, for people who have over the winter collected branches, leaves and other debris to be burned, this regulation must be kept in mind.
A major factor in both the fall and spring fire seasons is that lower humidity at these times of year makes the surrounding areas drier than in the summer whenthere is higher humidity. Because of the lower humidity, spring and fall conditions allow fires an easier path to spread and to get quickly out of control. Even coming off a winter like this one, with its abundance of snow, a steady diet of warmer days will quickly dry out vegetation, creating a potentially dangerous situation.
Last spring, 548 fires burned 6,807 acres in the state and last fall 140 fires burned 2,115 acres. The majority of these fires – 51 percent – were deliberately set, a sad statistic in itself; however escaped debris fires were the second highest cause, responsible for 25 percent of all wildfires.
Fires not only cause millions of dollars in property damage every year, they also endanger lives. And, of course, there are other consequences. Anyone found responsible for causing an out-of-control fire can be cited and face fines of between $100 and $1,000. An additional civil penalty of $200 also will be assessed.
Anyone planning to burn this spring should visit the Division of Forestry’s website at wvforestry.com for more details, including safety tips, about the spring fire regulations.