RICHMOND, Va. (WFXR) – It’s that time of year again. Virginia’s 4 p.m. burn law is about to begin.
Starting Feb. 15 and lasting through April 30 each year, the Virginia Department of Forestry (DOF) says that any outdoor burning is prohibited until after 4 p.m.
“The 4 p.m. burning law bans open-air burning prior to 4:00 p.m. if the fire is within 300 feet of the woods or dry grass which could carry fire into the woods. Burning is allowed between 4:00 p.m. and midnight as long as the burner takes proper precautions and attends the fire at all times.”Virginia Department of Forestry
Localities may institute their own burn bans. If that happens, local burn bans will supersede the state-wide 4 p.m. burn law.
Violation of the 4 p.m. burn law is a Class 3 misdemeanor with a fine not more than $500.
The 4 p.m. burn law was adopted during the 1940s to help reduce the number of wildfires that occur each spring. This is the time when Virginia typically has an increased number of brush and wildfires.
Fires are more likely during late winter and early spring because winds are usually elevated and the relative humidity is lower. Surface fuels are also typically at their driest during this time of year – especially on years where snowfall is below average.
The 4 p.m. burn law applies to all open-air burning which qualifies as any outdoor fire that is not covered and/or contained within non-flammable barriers.
An example of this is a typical campfire; however, an open-air fire may be acceptable if it meets the following criteria:
- It is completely contained within a ring of rocks, cinderblocks, metal ring or a similar device, and
- Is covered by a one-quarter-inch or smaller metal screen.
Even if both criteria are met, the fire still needs to be attended at all times and all flammable material should be cleared from a 20-foot area around the fire.
There must also be easy access to water, a rake and a shovel.
Fires built in commercially-available chimneys or fire pits with a one-quarter-inch or smaller metal screen are not considered open-air fires and are therefore legal, as long as they are in good condition to prevent the spread of fire to surrounding areas.
For any questions, check with local authorities and/or the Virginia DOF.
Gas or charcoal barbeque grills are not part of this ban and may be used; however, users are still encouraged to take proper care and precaution by clearing all flammable material from around the grill and stay with it until it is completely extinguished or is turned off.
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