BECKLEY, WV (WVNS) – October 1 kicks off one of two forest fire seasons in West Virginia. While that would normally mean the Division of Forestry enforces stricter burning laws, its director, Barry Cook, said the current drought calls for abiding to an ongoing burn ban.
“The burn ban is issued statewide, and it basically eliminates any type of open burning period,” Cooks stressed.
Cook, along with other Division of Forestry leaders, released a statement on Tuesday, October 1, sternly urging locals to follow the rules of the current ban, which applies to all residents. Cook said people are not exempt from their homes even though it is personal property.
“Even if you’ve got a fire pit in your backyard, it’s illegal to burn in it,” Cook said. “No charcoal grills because even the tiniest spark can start a fire.”
People may be asking why a burn ban since it is forest fire season anyway?Cook told 59 News rainfall across the state fell ten inches below average this summer, which is one of many reasons why the terrain is so prone to burning.
“About 80 percent of the days this summer, we’ve been 0 to 15 degrees above normal temperatures,” Cook added. “Even more critical than that, relative humidity over that same period of time has been 15 percent to 18 percent below average, so the drying has been extremely intense.”
At this point, Cook said there are minimal exceptions to fire use during the ban.
“The only exceptions right now are in federal and state parks, and only because they are under 24/7 supervision by park rangers,” Cook said.
Violators can face heavy civil fines or even criminal charges. According to the release, fines for misdemeanor convictions could be up to $1,000, plus a $200 civil penalty.