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Burning Season Began March 1

By Staff | Mar 4, 2009

The New Martinsville Fire Department would like to remind everyone that the Spring Forest Fire Season began on March 1 and will run through the end of May.

In 2008, the majority of wildfires were caused by people and their carelessness. People who allowed debris fires to escape into the surrounding woods caused 35 percent of the fires; people who deliberately set fires (arson/incendiary) caused 26 percent; and people using equipment near or in the woods caused another 19 percent of all forest fires. The other 20 percent of forest fires in West Virginia were caused by campfires, children, smokers, and railroads. Some of that 20 percent were attributed to miscellaneous causes and lightning, and others are still under investigation.

From March 1 through May 31, outdoor burning is prohibited between the hours of 7 a.m. and 4 p.m. During this three-month period, known as the spring forest fire season, outdoor burning is permitted only in the evening and at night, between the hours of 4 p.m. and 7 a.m., when the chances of a fire escaping are reduced due to cooler temperatures, increased humidity, and calmer winds.

Besides the daytime burning restrictions, other outdoor burning laws are in effect during this time:

-All outdoor fires must have a safety strip for a minimum distance of 10 feet around the materials being burned. This strip must be cleared down to the mineral soil to lessen the chances of an errant spark escaping into the woods and starting a forest fire.

-All fires must be totally extinguished and not left unattended for any period of time. Anyone caught breaking the law can be charged with a misdemeanor, fined up to $300, and held liable for costs of fighting the fire and any damage the fire may have caused to others’ property.

Forestry officials suggest in addition to obeying the state’s forest fires laws that residents should never burn anything on a windy day, make sure the area they are burning in is clear of flammable materials, and have tools, such as a rake, shovel, or water hose handy in case the fire does escape.

If you live in the corporate limits of the City of New Martinsville, you must apply for a burning permit by calling the New Martinsville Police Department, at least 48-hours prior to your desired burn time, at 304-455-9100 where the communications officer will gather your information and pass that along to the fire chief who will do a site visit prior to the issuance of a burning permit.

“We don’t like to see people burning debris at their properties, many times these debris fires lead to neighborhood complaints regarding smoke, creating neighbor feuds, and we have even had these fires escape the homeowner resulting in an emergency response by the fire department,” said New Martinsville Fire Chief Larry W. Couch. “We would also like to remind everyone that the city provides for an annual spring clean-up to help avoid such debris fires.”

For more information you can go to the New Martinsville Volunteer Fire Department Web site and click on the “Outdoor Burning” link, or contact the West Virginia Division of Forestry at 304-558-2788.