Seasonal 4 p.m. burning law in effect until April 30

ROCKINGHAM COUNTY, Va. -- The Virginia Department of Forestry's annual 4 p.m. burn law went into effect this week and runs through April 30.

During the winter months, winds are usually elevated, the relative humidity is lower and the fuels on the forest floor are extremely dry, having "cured" without having the tree leaves to shade them.

The law bans open air burning before 4 p.m. if the fire is within 300 feet of the woods or dry grass.

People are permitted to burn between 4 p.m. and midnight as long as fires are attended and properly cared for at all times.

Rockingham County Deputy Fire Chief, Joe Mullens said this law is very helpful and helps to reduce the amount of fires they see this time of year.

"Normally after 4 p.m. the winds have died down, relative humidity has gone back up and the temperatures are starting to go down, so it makes it safer for burning," Mullens said.

The Department of Forestry said Virginia averages almost 1,500 fires per year and over 8,000 acres of land are burned.

"During these times of year the dry materials from winter is abundant and the warm temperatures and humidity start to rise as well as some wind and it makes those fuels susceptible to burning," Mullens said.

Experts say, this extra precaution aims to reduce those numbers during the dry winter and spring months.

"It's very helpful. One of the number one causes of fires in the state of Virginia, outdoor fires, are human caused," Mullens said. "If we can limit that and help educate the public then we can stop those fires."

Violation of the 4 p.m. law is a Class 3 misdemeanor with a fine up to $500. Charcoal and gas fire grills are okay to use, but campfires are considered open fire.