WVU experts give tips to prevent forest fires this fall/winter season


Fire crews in Marion County are working to get a brush fire under control. (Courtesy: Winfield District Volunteer Fire Department)

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Amidst a string of forest fires across West Virginia, WVU Extension Service experts Mark Lambert and Dave McGill have provided some tips for those who plan on participating in outdoor burning this time of year.

With the decreased humidity of the fall and winter seasons, the debris that makes up the forest floor can become more flammable. So, here are some tips on how to avoid any unwanted fires this season.

Mark Lambert, assistant professor and director, WVU Fire Service Extension quotes:

Mark Lambert, assistant professor and director, WVU Fire Service Extension

“The statewide fall fire season runs from Oct. 1 through Dec. 31. There’s also a spring fire season from March 1 to May 31. During these fire seasons, outdoor burning is prohibited from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. across West Virginia.”

“If you’re burning outdoors within the permitted times, it’s important to remember that only vegetative materials, such as leaves, brush and yard clippings are permitted to be burned. You should never burn outdoors on windy days. The fire could easily spread very fast and get out of control.”

“Individuals can face fines up to $1,000 for violating West Virginia’s burning laws and the fire season guidelines. If your fire gets out of control, you also could be charged with the expenses of extinguishing the fire.”

Dave McGill, professor and forestry resources specialist, WVU Extension quotes:

Dave McGill, professor and forestry resources specialist, WVU Extension

“Landowners should be aware of and follow the West Virginia Division of Forestry’s fire burning guidelines year-round, but we especially need to be cognizant of the restrictions during the burning seasons like we’re in right now. The full list of guidelines as well as additional information can be found on the Division of Forestry’s website at wvforestry.com.”

“If burning outdoors during the legal hours, you need to make appropriate plans to have fires fully extinguished by 7 a.m. Dry litter, like leaves, grasses and clippings, can be volatile, and fire conditions can change quickly, so fires should never be left unattended. It’s always a good idea to clear a 10-foot safety strip around the area where you’ll be burning to remove any flammable material. Be vigilant and remain aware of any burning items that are creating a lot of sparks or floating embers.”

“It’s important to follow burning season guidelines and always use caution when dealing with fires, but it’s also important to understand that prescribed fires can be a useful tool to promote forest regeneration and create wildlife habitat. A controlled, prescribed burn was even used recently at the WVU Research Forest for these exact reasons. These prescribed burns should only be carried out with proper permits and adequate supervision.”

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