Protect yourself, property when burning outdoors
Recent sustained warm temperatures encourage spending time outdoors. Officials with the Virginia Department of Forestry remind you to protect yourself and your property when these outdoor activities involve burning.
The Commonwealth’s 4 p.m. Burning Law is in effect and prohibits burning before 4 p.m. Since January 1, the VDOF has responded to 166 fires that burned 1,570 acres. Although more than 100 homes and structures have been protected during this period, homes and structures have been damaged. In addition, serious injury or death can occur as individuals legally burn.
“Firefighting is a dangerous practice best left to trained professionals,” said Fred X. Turck, VDOF’s assistant director for resource protection. “When an individual without this training faces a fire escaping in front of them, they may panic and make decisions that increase the risk to themselves and their property.” Turck adds that you should always call 911 as soon as a fire gets away from you – don’t try to be a hero by trying to contain the fire by yourself.
Citizens who legally burn should practice the following steps to protect themselves and their property:
· Instead of burning leaves, compost them in the fall;
· Never burn if the wind is in excess of 20 mph and/or is blowing toward your home or your neighbor’s;
· Plan, discuss and practice an escape plan with your family and your pets;
· If you must burn leaves, trash or other debris, obey all laws and restrictions; clear an area around your burn pile, and keep burn piles small;
· Create a “defensible space” zone – an area of at least 30 feet in all directions around your home and outbuildings that is free of highly flammable trees and shrubs;
· Always have a shovel and a fully charged water hose on hand before lighting your fire;
· Remove leaves and pine needles from your roof and gutters;
· Call 911 and report your fire right away;
· Ensure your house number/address can be easily seen from the street.
The Commonwealth’s 4 p.m. Burning Law is in effect until April 30th. The law prohibits burning before 4 p.m. each day until April 30th if the fire is in, or within 300 feet of, woodland, brushland or fields containing dry grass or other flammable materials.
A violation of this law is a Class 3 misdemeanor punishable by up to a $500 fine. In addition to the criminal violation, those who allow a fire to escape are liable for the cost of suppressing the fire as well as any damage caused to others’ property.
To learn more about protecting your life and your property from the ravages of wildfire, go to firewisevirginia.org or contact your local VDOF office.