What caused the Prospect brush fire? Farmville chief urges caution

Published 11:00 am Friday, March 24, 2023

PROSPECT – The fire started Wednesday afternoon in Prospect, burning through one home, two vehicles and a few small sheds. By the time it was put out on Thursday, it had stretched from the 8200 block of U.S. 460 eastbound to cover six acres of brush. As a result, fire department officials urge caution, pointing to the believed cause of the blaze as a reason to take the state’s burn ban seriously. 

According to Farmville Fire Chief Daniel Clark, it’s believed a downed powerline started the fire, knocked over due to wind in the area. A Burkeville firefighter arrived first on scene and by 5:50 p.m. on Wednesday, March 22, more than 60 firefighters from across Prince Edward County joined him. Five county departments were called out, including Prospect, Pamplin, Darlington Heights, Farmville, Hampden Sydney and Prince Edward Rescue. 

That first day, the Prince Edward Sheriff’s Office shut down Route 460 eastbound for about four hours, as departments battled the blaze. All traffic was detoured through Prospect. According to Clark, everyone stayed at the scene until around 10:42 p.m. after the fire was out. Others who helped included the Virginia Department of Forestry, High Bridge Trail State Park Police, Virginia State Police, Virginia Department of Transportation and members of Prince Edward County Emergency Management. 


High winds reignited the blaze on Thursday, March 23. Firefighters from across Prince Edward County worked to put it out a second time.

Winds bring the Prospect fire back 

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Thursday brought with it high winds, which helped restart the fire. According to Clark, the Prospect Volunteer Fire Department and the Virginia Department of Forestry were able to go out and get the fire back under control and put it out. 

“I encourage everyone to follow the burn ban that’s in place until the end of April and to be cautious of any burns,” said Clark. “With high winds like these, it doesn’t take much for a burn to get out of control.”

With the dry winter weather evolving into spring over the next few months, fires like the one in Prospect can prove more dangerous than usual. To prevent forest fires, a burn ban is in place across the state. Here is what to know. 

The burn ban officially started on Wednesday, Feb. 15 and will continue through Sunday, April 30. Folks are asked to take extra precautions to help reduce the number of wildfires experienced during this time of the year. 

The burning law prohibits burning until after 4 p.m. before resuming after midnight if the fire is within 300 feet of woodland, brushland or fields of dry grass or other flammable material. No fuel can be added to these fires and the fires must be attended to at all times. 

“This is a critical time of the year where conditions are more apt to be formidable for the spread of fire with wind and weather conditions,” Clark said.

What does the ban apply to? 

According to the Virginia Department of Forestry, this law applies to open-air fires that are not covered or contained with non-flammable barriers. Examples include campfires, warming fires, brush piles, household trash, stumps or anything that could spread the fire. 

“If you do have a fire, stay with it,” said Clark. “Make sure to have a form of a water source to prevent the fire from spreading beyond the contained area.”

Exemptions to this burning law include commercially-available chimineas, fire pits with a one-fourth inch or smaller metal screen, charcoal or gas-fired barbeque grill or fires or any burning operation that takes place greater than 300 feet from the woods or other flammable vegetation. For perspective, the 300-foot minimum distance is around the length of a football field. These fires should still be monitored at all times. 

Anyone with questions or concerns about what is allowed can reach out to their local fire department. Those who are found in violation of this burn ban can face a Class 3 misdemeanor and a fine of up to $500.