CHARLSTON, W.Va. — The 2020 fall forest fire season has arrived in West Virginia. From now through the end of the year, all outdoor burning must be confined to the hours of 5 p.m. to 7 a.m. Jeremy Jones, Fire Staff Assistant for the West Virginia Division of Forestry said burning within those hours is critical at this time of year.
“It makes a difference because through the middle of the day the sun is up, the air dries out, the humidity drops, and it’s usually windy. Fires are more likely to escape during those daylight hours than they are in the evening when the humidity starts coming up and the dew falls,” he said.
Those who choose to burn also need to remember additional restrictions. A person must stay with a fire the entire time it is burning. You’re also required to clear away any flammable fuels in a 10 foot ring around the fire and the landscape should be down to barren soil. Jones said while not a requirement, having a water hose close buy is a strong move as well.
The potential for forest fire is always prevalent in West Virginia, but this year the risk seems to be smaller than some we’ve experienced.
“We’re a lot different than where we were this time a year ago. Thankfully we had a lot of rain in the summer months. Although we are starting to dry out a little, we’re nowhere near where we were a year ago,” he said.
According to Jones there are three key reasons for forest fires in West Virginia. The biggest cause is debris burning which will accidentally get out of hand through high winds or just carelessness by the property owner. Arson is second and the third is downed powerlines.
“On those windy days when trees are falling and causing power outages, if it’s dry enough, those downed power lines will also cause a forest fire,” Jones said.
Anyone cited for burning in violation of the restriction could face stiff penalties including the possibility of a $1,000 fine