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Fire Safety: Do not disregard burning laws

In case we were looking for something else to worry about, the West Virginia Division of Forestry is reporting it has had to respond to 312 fires with nearly 3,000 acres burned since Jan. 1. Compare that with the previous year, when during the same period there were 158 fires with only 632 acres burned.

Weather has something to do with it, of course. But humans who are not being responsible with the fires they set play a large role.

“The slight increase in fire activity this spring can be attributed to drier weather conditions during the month of March,” said Jon T. Wilson, service forester for Tyler and Doddridge counties. “The precipitation experienced over most of the state during February did little to decrease forest fires this spring. Just as wet clothes hung outside will dry in an afternoon, so will forest leaf litter and vegetation. One dry and windy March afternoon can dry the fuels in the forest and ready them for combustion.”

That makes it essential for people to follow the burning laws. Until May 31, there is a daylight burning ban from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. (humidity levels increase in the evening and overnight).

“If residents carefully follow the fire laws, we can reduce the numbers of fires,” said Wilson. “The seasonal regulations have been in place for many years and they are very effective in preventing forest fires.”

When wildfires take first responders away from other responsibilities, or threaten power lines and other structures, the results can be deadly. But if preserving our wild spaces and keeping people safe is not enough reason to follow the rules, there is a fine for forest fires due to negligence ranging from $100 to $1,000, with an additional civil penalty of $200.

In all respects, it’s simply not worth it to disregard burning rules this spring.

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