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Louisa County considers limits on open-air fires

Posted on Thursday, February 9, 2017 at 8:00 am

The county is considering an ordinance that would prohibit residents from burning hazardous-type materials.

County officials are trying to do something to curb residents from burning some trash on their property, without taking away their ability to burn yard waste or have recreational fires.

Draft language that would prohibit open burning of combustible liquids, household chemicals, or similar materials is headed for the Louisa County Planning Commission after the board of supervisors briefly discussed the matter on Feb. 6.

The issue came to the supervisors’ attention last October when Dianna Carter, a Louisa resident, complained to them about a neighbor who was burning a fiberglass boat. The smell and smoke from the fire lingered for days, preventing her from opening windows or spending time outside, Carter said.

Carter contacted various county and state agencies and learned that nothing could be done unless the county adopted a portion of the Virginia Fire Prevention Code, which regulates outside fires.

“We have a landfill and recycling centers,” Carter told the board in October. “These people have options. Why are we continuing to allow people to build an open fire rather than go to the trash bin?”

County Attorney Sandra Robinson presented the supervisors with draft text on Monday that would prohibit burning household chemicals, but allow industrial and agricultural burning on large lots, warming barrels, and bonfires. The county would require landowners to obtain a permit for an open fire, except for recreational fires.

To read the entire story, see the Feb. 9 edition of The Central Virginian.


Wildfire Season begins Feb. 15

As wildfire season approaches, there is expected to be an increased threat in 2017 in some areas of Virginia due to a lingering lack of rain, minimal snowfall and growth in urban interface areas. More than 60 percent of Virginia’s annual average of 1,000 wildfires occur in the spring – with March and April historically being the most active months.

To help reduce the number of wildfires this time of year, the Commonwealth’s 4 p.m. Burning Law goes into effect Feb. 15. The law prohibits open burning between the hours of midnight and 4 p.m. each day. Burning is permitted between the hours of 4 p.m. and midnight, but officials at the Virginia Department of Forestry caution people that, even though burning is allowed from 4 p.m. to midnight, they should not burn if the weather conditions are such that a fire will likely escape.  (Such conditions include low humidity, warm temperatures and winds over 10 miles per hour.)  The law remains in effect each year until April 30.

A violation of the 4 p.m. Burning Law is a Class 3 misdemeanor punishable by up to a $500 fine. In addition to the criminal violation, however, those who allow a fire to escape are liable for the cost of suppressing the fire as well as any damage caused to others’ property.

As the population of Virginia continues to grow, every new home being built in the wildland-urban interface brings new challenges.

Using the Gatlinburg wildfire as the most recent example of what can go wrong when a number of factors all align in a negative manner, the Virginia Department of Forestry is reaching out to homeowners, community leaders, fire departments, local governments and state and federal partners with an educational campaign hoping that a well-informed individual or group can make a difference.

Virginians can prepare their properties for the spring wildfire season in the following ways:

• Attend community preparedness meetings;

• Follow the VDOF on Twitter (@ForestryVA) and ‘like’ us on Facebook;

• Visit the Firewise website at;

• 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.

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