Burn ban could be lifted Monday

A week after Gov. Tim Kaine (D) issued a statewide ban on burning and amid a steady rain that's dumped about two inches over much of Virginia, the Commonwealth's top forestry official says he could recommend lifting the ban as early as Monday.

"We're putting all decisions on hold to see what the final tally of rainfall is over the weekend," says state forester Carl Garrison. "It's easy to say we're not in a severe situation today, but in three or four days, we could be back in this same situation, so we don't want to lift the ban, only to impose it again a week later."

According to Garrison, total precipitation won't be the only factor. "We'll be looking to see if the rain is evenly dispersed, and if the forecast for first frost– which will accelerate the falling of the leaves– is supposed to happen during a drought period," he says.

But as with any rule, there is an exception to the statewide snuff-out. "The way the law is written, there has to be flammable material that can carry the fire to a wooded area," explains Garrison. "So if it's raining, or it's just rained, and the ground is wet, it's okay to burn any type of solid fuels like charcoal or firewood. But as soon as the ground gets dry, you would need to put it out."

–photo by Matt Lehrer