Inflammatory: Daytime burn ban looms
Conflagrations like this will not be allowed until after 4pm in Albemarle County from February 15 through April 30.
That's when "things are about as dead and dry as they're going to be," says Albemarle Fire Rescue Assistant Chief James Barber. Add to that low humidity and high winds, and the potential for an out-of-control burn heightens. After 4pm, says Barber, spring winds typically die down and humidity increases.
"Fires that get away from debris burns are probably the number one cause for forest fires," says Barber.
Open fires should be 300 feet away from woods, fields and homes, and violations are a Class 3 misdemeanor punishable by up to a $500 fine. Besides the criminal violation, 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.
Albemarle typically doesn't bill for coming to the rescue, but, says Barber, if the Department of Forestry is called and has to bring in equipment such as a bulldozer, it charges $250 an hour. "It can mount up pretty quickly," he notes.
Albemarle's backyard burners aren't as bad as the rest of the state, says Barber, but every year out-of-control burns happen. "The wind direction changes, they feel safe enough to go to the bathroom, and it gets away from them," explains Barber.
Besides the potential liability and safety issues, there's another cost: the shame factor. "I guess mostly people would feel embarrassed," says the assistant chief. "Most folks feel they can handle it."