CHESTERFIELD, VA (WWBT) - A statewide ban on open burning takes effect today, and lasts until April 30. This time of year typically sees dry, windy weather. This year, officials say fire danger is still high despite the snowy, wet winter.
Early spring in Chesterfield is a time when wildfires blossom.
"Each year we do have a significant number of brush fires," said Lt. Jason Elmore of Chesterfield Fire and EMS. "Some are minor, some are a little more major. Last year we did have a 70-plus acre brush fire off Nash Road."
That fire in March of 2009 forced the evacuation of some nearby homes. It was typical of the dry, windy conditions of the first months of the year.
This winter, on the other hand, has been far from typical. But snow on the ground can't prevent a fire from starting or spreading, according to Lt. Elmore.
"They can still easily spread with wind conditions, even though the ground is wet outside," he explained.
Furthermore, the higher parts of trees and bushes are drier than the ground, and can still catch a floating ember and light up. The state's Department of Forestry has already reported 26 wildfires statewide since January 1. To make matters worse, all that snow is bound to melt sometime soon.
"Spring is going to be coming soon and things are going to start drying out," said Elmore.
Virginia averages about 1,200 wildfires per year, consuming an average of 10,000 acres. Officials don't expect anything different this year.
With that in mind, the burn ban goes from February 15 to April 30. Open burning is prohibited between midnight and 4 p.m. within 300 feet of woods, brush land, or fields of dry grass.
In addition to the state ban, most localities have other restrictions and requirements for burning. You should check with your local fire department before you do any outdoor burning.