Burn law goes into effect this week

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Fire departments throughout Virginia are reminding the public about the 4 p.m. burn ban, which begins February 15th.

The law prohibits burning, except between the hours of 4 p.m. and midnight, from February 15th to April 30th. Fires also cannot be within 300 feet of woodland, brushland or fields.

Firefighters want people to use caution because the ground can dry out fast on windy days, causing fires to get out of hand.

Jason Ferguson, with Botetourt Fire and EMS, said, "Even though we have had a lot of wet here recently, that doesn't mean we don't have sunny days with brisk winds that dry the fuels that are down from over the winter time, which means it's more open to catching fire and spreading quickly."

Although Virginia also has a wildfire season in the fall, more than 60 percent of the commonwealth's annual average 1,000 wildfires happen in the spring - especially in March and April.

The Rocky Mount Fire that burned more than 10,000 acres a couple years ago began in April.

If you violate the law, you could face a misdemeanor charge and a $500 fine.

If you allow a fire to escape in Virginia, you will also be liable for the cost of putting the fire out, as well as any damage caused to the property of others.

Here are some ways you can prepare your property for the wildfire season, per the Dept. of Forestry:

• Attend community preparedness meetings;
• Visit the Firewise website at www.firewisevirginia.org;
• Remove all branches that touch the house, garage, shed, etc.;
• Clear all brush (tall grass, leaves, branches, weeds, etc.) within 30 feet of the home and other structures;
• Keep gutters clear of debris;
• Remove combustibles (wood, propane tanks, gas grills, motor homes, boats, ATVs and cars) from under or near structures;
• Trim branches up to 10 feet from the base of the tree and remove any vines from the trees;
• Use gravel or chunky bark for mulch;
• Install spark arrestors on chimneys;
• Keep flammable plants away from your home;
• Maintain your driveway so that the clearance is at least 12 feet wide and 12 feet high, and
• Use fire-resistant materials for your roof, deck and siding projects.