A Warren County resident is accused of violating the state’s burn ban on Tuesday after a fire spread from a pile of debris.
Fire and forest officials remind residents and property owners that the ban prohibits setting outside fires such as burn piles before 4 p.m. The ban took effect Saturday.
Zoe Sumrall, a forest technician with the Virginia Department of Forestry, issued a summons to the home’s occupant for violating the burn ban. Special forest wardens such as Sumrall enforce fire laws such as the open-air burn ban. The prohibition covers a time when the incidents of open-air fires can increase, she said.
“The need for the burn ban is this time of year the winds are usually higher and the relative humidity is lower and so the fuels ... the things that burn ... are just dryer this time of year,” Sumrall said. “In general, after about 4 o’clock (p.m.), usually the humidity increases and winds decrease.”
Sumrall said she has issued three citations for burn-ban violations in the past four years.
The blaze started in a pile of debris near a house in a mountainous, forested area, she said, adding that she was about a mile away from the fire and responded quickly. The resident said he did not know about the burn ban, she recalled.
Sumrall said she grew up in Warren County and didn’t know about the burn ban until she started working for the agency four years ago. She said that Frederick County posts signs at the landfill and trash collection centers during the ban to alert users about the prohibition of open-air burning. In Warren County, she said, signs are scattered throughout the locality but not at the convenience sites.
“They’re not as visible in (Warren County) and that’s something I’ve been trying to work on is just trying to get more signs,” she said.
Emergency response agencies and local governments have used social media to spread the word and inform the public about the burn ban, Sumrall said.
Warren County Fire and Rescue units responded to a report of a brush fire threatening structures just after 2 p.m. Tuesday in the 1800 block of Oregon Hollow Road east of Front Royal. Fire Marshal Gerry Maiatico states in a media release that units arrived on the scene to find approximately 3/4 of an acre of a wooded area on fire. The blaze was spreading away from the structures and firefighters brought it under control before the flames damaged any of the structures, Maiatico states.
“It was determined that the fire was caused by an open-air fire spreading to the wooded area when winds increased,” Maiatico states in the release.
Emergency workers left the scene in about 90 minutes once the fire was out, Sumrall said.
The fire marshal said the incident should serve as a reminder as to why the 4 p.m. burn law remains in effect from Feb. 15 through April 30. The state law prohibits open-air burning before 4 p.m. and after midnight through April 30.
Visit www.dof.virginia.gov/fire for information on the burn law.