RICHMAND, Virginia (WFXR) – It’s that time of year again. In Virginia at 16 o’clock the law on incinerations will begin.
Beginning Feb. 15 and April 30 each year, the Virginia Department of Forestry (DOF) says any outdoor smoking is prohibited until 4 p.m.
“The 16 Hours Burning Act prohibits smoking outdoors until 4pm when the fire is within 300 feet of forest or dry grass that could transfer the fire to the forest. Smoking is allowed from 16.00 to midnight, if the burner takes proper precautions and is on fire all the time.
Virginia Department of Forestry
Locals can impose their own bans on incineration. If that happens, local incineration bans will replace the nationwide 16-hour incineration law.
Violation of the law on incineration before 16.00 is a 3rd class offense with a fine of no more than $ 500.
In the 1940s, a law was passed to burn to 4pm to reduce the number of forest fires that occur each spring. This is a time when the number of thickets and forest fires in Virginia is usually increasing.
Fires are more likely in late winter and early spring because winds are usually higher and relative humidity is lower. Surface fuel is also usually the driest at this time of year – especially in years when snowfall is below average.
The 16:00 Combustion Act applies to all outdoor combustion, which qualifies as any open fire that is not covered and / or contained in non-combustible barriers.
An example of this is a typical campfire; however, open fire may be acceptable if it meets the following criteria:
- It is completely contained in a ring of stones, cinder blocks, a metal ring or similar device, and
- Covered with a metal screen the size of a quarter of an inch or less.
Even if both criteria are met, the fire still needs to be constantly cared for, and all combustible materials must be cleaned from the 20-foot zone around the fire.
There should also be easy access to water, rakes and shovels.
Fires built in commercially available chimneys or fireplaces with a metal screen a quarter of an inch or less are not considered open fires and are therefore legal as long as they are in good condition to prevent the fire from spreading to adjacent areas.
For any questions, contact your local authorities and / or DOF Virginia.
Gas or charcoal barbecue grills are not part of this ban and may be used; however, users are still advised to take proper care and precautions by cleaning all flammable material around the grill and staying with it until it is completely extinguished or turned off.
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