Burn ban in place: New rules started Thursday across region

Published 12:01 am Friday, February 16, 2024

It’s about that time of year again. Residents of Buckingham, Cumberland and Prince Edward counties are under a limited burn ban, effective as of Thursday, Feb. 15. It’s not just here. The entire state has been placed under the same ban, as we begin the spring fire season. 

The rules are as follows: you can’t burn anything outdoors before 4 p.m. when the fire is within 300 feet of the woods or dry grass. Also, no fire can be started or fuels added to a fire after midnight. This ban runs through April 30, courtesy of the Virginia Department of Forestry (DOF). 

DOF officials said the ban was put in place to both announce the arrival of the spring fire season and remind people of state law. Now if someone is caught violating the ban, it’s a Class-3 misdemeanor. That means you could face up to $500 in fines. And if your fire gets out of control, you could be charged for all fire suppression costs by the department and possibly any resulting property damage. 

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And let’s be clear. The burning law applies to all open-air fires such as debris burning, campfires and charcoal grills like those found in park settings. This law does not apply to charcoal or gas-fired barbecue grills. Some exceptions to the law are also made for campfires at Virginia State Parks.

“Last fall, Virginia experienced extreme fire activity that provided a stark reminder of the importance of safe burning practices,” said DOF Chief of Fire and Emergency Response John Miller. “Simple safety measures are easy to follow and significantly reduce the likelihood of an escaped fire, the number one cause of wildfires.”

Reason for a burn ban

 Although Virginia also has a wildfire season in the fall, more than 60 percent of the Commonwealth’s annual average of 700 wildfires occur in the spring. Rising temperatures, dry and windy weather, and abundant fuels such as frost-killed vegetation and dead leaves, increase the potential for wildfires and make them harder to extinguish.