Forestry officials urging public to comply with burning ban to reduce fire hazard; or else face criminal and civil penalties
Drought-like conditions spark increase in fires across state.
CHARLESTON, WV – After experiencing a sizable uptick in fires across the state in recent weeks, leaders with the Division of Forestry are sternly urging residents across West Virginia to adhere to the ongoing ban on all outdoor burning.
“We need residents to do their part by complying with the burning ban,” Division of Forestry Director and State Forester Barry Cook said. “The burn ban applies to all residents. You are not exempt at your home, even though it’s your personal property, you are subject to a fine if you break this ban.”
Violators can face heavy civil fines and even criminal charges. Fines for misdemeanor convictions can cost up to $1,000, plus a $200 civil penalty.
In the month of September alone, West Virginia experienced more than 90 fires and approximately 600 burnt acres, statewide.
“We have actually had entire fire seasons where that was the total number of acres that might have been burned,” Cook said. “It’s unusual to have any significant fires in September.
“Please help us here. Abide by the burn ban,” Cook said. “It’s not because we want to do this, it really is for your protection and your property. A spark today can set a fire.”
The burning ban went into effect Sept. 20, as the result of forecasts for continued above-average temperatures and below-average rainfall statewide.
The ban will remain in effect until Gov. Jim Justice rescinds the order by proclamation.
“This ban helps ensure we are doing what we can to protect our forests, the public, and private property from the damage that could occur from a forest fire,” Cook said.
The ban prohibits all outdoor burning. The only exceptions are:
- Fires for the purpose of chemical production, where fire is essential to operation.
- Fires for commercial land-clearing, such as mining, highway construction, and development, provided that a permit is obtained from the Division of Forestry prior to burning.
- Training fires conducted under the direct control and supervision of qualified instructors at a training facility operated by a fire department or government entity; provided that a permit for such training fires is obtained from the Division of Forestry prior to burning.
- Fires for outdoor cooking conducted for fundraising events and charitable organizations; provided that a water source capable of extinguishing the fire must be present and that a permit is obtained from the Division of Forestry prior to burning.
- Liquid-fueled gas grills, lanterns, or liquid-fueled gas fire stoves.
- Fires built for warming or cooking within fireplaces or fire rings at designated federal and state recreation areas, provided area managers have the authority and discretion to continue the ban on open burning within any designated areas