Inflammatory: Daytime burn ban looms

One particular late 2007 burn in Western Albemarle.

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."


heels yea that is a sweeet bonfire dude.

Too many "backyard burns" are happening in Albemarle! Come on guys, what ever happened to the idea of composting leaves? The fires smoke up the entire neighborhood and foul the air for miles. Many of the people want an excuse to burn trash including plastic bags and other non green items, instead of hiring a responsible disposal company. Some residents have health problems and shouldn't be forced to breathe this smoke. Most modern localities would not allow all of this sanctioned and obnoxious burning. The law doesn't go far enough. I say, only supervised (permit) burning should be allowed. One fire "gone bad" can cost the County and State thousands of dollars. I'm unsure whether we know the complete or actual costs here. Are records kept concerning costs for fighting fires in the State and County? I'm speaking of manpower, equipment, etc. Why doesn't the County bill in fighting fires for those in violation? No wonder the County is short of cash.

Albemarle officials should realize,some in the county must endure the stench of burning trash on a weekly basis.It is perfectly legal to own and operate a burning bin or pit in most areas of the county.There is no real regulation of the activity either.I know a fellow in the county who is beside himself.Every Friday and Wednesday night his neighbor burns his trash.The pile then simmers for 24 hours.I have also recently heard of a man who lives in Charlottesville and refuses to pay for the required city trash disposal stickers or permit.He owns properties in Albemarle and regularly carts his trash to his country properties to burn.I sympathize with the neighbors in the county.Nothing can be done as long as the laws are lax.

It is a DEQ solid waste violation to burn trash from another property. Just transporting it to another property is a violation.

Dave,Wake up buddy!Illegal burning has happened in the county for decades.The county and state are currently unable to catch most offenders and probably never will.From what I have read,it is also a part of Albemarle history that businesses have been known to burn illegal material in the rural area.Boys joke about the county not giving a flip about what is going on too.Why allow a set-up that encourages illegal burning?For now,there are known loopholes that lay out a welcome mat for violators.DEQ certainly doesn't have the money or a will to monitor the county.The easiest solution would be to change county law and disallow burns without a permit.Doing so sure would improve the quality of life for some rural residents and also elevate the county's image.If you give up beer,cigs and candy for a month,you can afford trash service.Where are the priorities here?The DEQ law means nothing,as it is being ignored.

Dave, Does DEQ have available funding to hire spys to sight and follow some man from Charlottesville to his own land in the County to make sure he doesn't decide to burn on his own property? What a joke! DEQ and the County appear to be living in their own misguided backward bubble! Just fix the broken county law in allowing the byright burning of trash.