Virginia Department of Forestry technician Nelson Jarvis, left, and area forester Jeff Darr pose with some of the equipment they often use to fight wildfires. The state’s 4 p.m. burn law goes into effect Saturday. Photo by Quinton Sheppard
It may have been a wet winter, but local Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF) officials warn residents that just a few days of sunlight, low humidity and wind can quickly increase the danger of wildfires, as Saturday marks the start of spring fire season in Virginia.
With the start of fire season comes the state’s 4 p.m. burn law, which goes into effect Saturday, and lasts until April 30. During this time, burning is prohibited before 4 p.m. each day if the fire is in, or within 300 feet of, woodland, brush land or fields containing dry grass or other flammable materials.
Wildfires over the last two years in this region have not been severe, according to area forester Jeff Darr. Though plenty of fires were reported, he said most were minor and area volunteer fire departments were able to put them out without having to call for backup assistance from VDOF.
Darr said Gloucester’s own open burning ordinance, which is more restrictive than the state law, has also helped to cut down on the number of escaped fires, especially those outside of the 4 p.m. burn law season.
Still, one of the major causes of spring wildfires is homeowners dumping woodstove ashes outdoors. “Every spring, we get at least three to four calls of field fires caused by woodstove ashes,” said forestry technician Nelson Jarvis. He suggests dumping the ashes into at least five gallons of water and letting them sit in there a while before discarding them outdoors. Then, he urged residents not to place the ashes anywhere near dry grass, which is the primary fuel for a wildfire.