Burn ban effective immediately in Craig County

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Pam Dudding
Contributing writer

No one likes a forest fire. And, Craig County is no different.

Effective 4 p.m. on Friday, September 27, a burn ban has been put in effect until cancellation. The Board of Supervisors passed and adopted this resolution, per Jesse Spence, Chair for the Board of Supervisors of Craig.

Here are some facts on the resolution authorizing a countywide ban on open fires:

  • Due to the severely dry conditions, local fire departments, and Craig County Emergency Services have announced a countywide “Burn Ban” until substantial rain has fallen throughout the County
  • All citizens were given notice of the ban through numerous media resources such as the newspaper, the county website and through two-way radio frequencies to all fire and rescue personnel
  • The local Board of Supervisors approved a countywide ban on open-air burning effective September 27, 2019, and support continuation of the ban until it is lifted by the County Emergency Services Coordinator.
  • The County Administrator is authorized to enact future bans as needed or requested by the County ‘s Emergency Services Coordinator.

Jim Cady, Craig County’s Emergency Services Coordinator, added, “This ban includes any open flame devises, the burning of leaves, limbs, bonfires, campfires and other outdoor burning. Failure to comply with this ban is a class three misdemeanor and violators will be issued a summons. Furthermore, the violator may be held liable for damages caused by willfully violating this ban.”

It is stated the burn ban could extend through November if rain does not come.

Cady also noted, “The burn ban only pertains to private property so campers on NFS land can burn unless they are told otherwise.”

Due to the increased risk of wildfires, the Governor has the authority to enact a burning ban using Code of Virginia 10.1-1158, which covers all state and private lands.

Some common questions citizens ask are answered on the website;

  • One can burn in a metal burn barrel if it is in good condition to contain all the flame and sparks and if it has a ¼” or less mesh wire screen over the top
  • No campfires are allowed, even with rocks around it
  • A pit fire is allowed only if it meets all of the following conditions: fire is below ground level, continuously monitored, completely enclosed with cinderblocks and a ¼” or smaller metal screen is placed over the enclosure •Extra precautions should be taken to clear a 20-foot circle of all flammable materials and have water available. Suppression costs associated with any escaped fire will be the responsibility of the fire starter.
  • A propane camp stove or Coleman stove can be used
  • To use a stove in the National Forest, one must contact the National Forest or National Park involved as their requirements are quite different from the ones of the State Burning Ban
  • A charcoal grill for a cook-out can be used only if the container that holds the charcoal briquettes is in excellent condition with no holes and the container is covered with a 1/4″ wire mesh screen. The cooking grill can then be placed above this mesh screen
  • A charcoal fire in one of the open grills in an approved, developed campground is allowed, however, it is recommended that one possesses a 1/4-inch (maximum) metal wire screen over the charcoal
  • No wood fire is allowed in one of the open charcoal grills in an approved, developed campground
  • Candles are allowed in jack-o-lanterns at Halloween if the candle is completely contained within the jack-o-lantern and it is not surrounded by dry leaves or vegetation
  • Luminary cannot be used for holiday decoration. They are considered an open flame. Alternatives would be to use electric or battery lights or chemical glow sticks instead of candles
  • No fireworks are allowed

Another question often asked is, “If I take all precautions with my fire and it does escape and start a wildfire, am I responsible for the suppression cost?” The answer is yes. Although one may have taken all proper precautions and obtained any locally required permits, whoever started the fire is responsible for it.

Also note that hunting season will not be closed at this time, though future updates will determine this decision if no more rainfalls.

People sometimes ask, “Can I burn in the rain or right after it rains?” As long as the grasses, leaves and pine straw (fine fuels) are wet and not flammable, the law does not apply and people can burn. However, as soon as those fuels dry out and become flammable, people are prohibited from burning and any fire one has must be completely extinguished or they will be in violation of the law. (The Forest Service adds a word of caution; light showers and events that only bring a minor amount of rain will do very little to ease the drought conditions and with just a little bit of sunshine and wind, the fine fuels will dry out quickly and once again become flammable.)

Contact Craig County Emergency Services Coordinator Jim Cady for any questions or further elaboration. People are encouraged to visit http://www.dof.virginia.gov/fire/4pm/faqs-statewide-burn-ban.htm.

Cady also encourages citizens to remember, “A violation is a class three misdemeanor with a max fee of $500. I hope we don’t have to issue any citations, but willful violations may require a citation. The cost of extinguishing a fire can be very high and a real burden on the person that starts the fire even if a citation is not issued. We do not want to cause hardships for anyone, but safety is foremost.”

 

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