Frequently Asked Questions

Statewide Burning Ban Authority

Due to the increased risk of wildfires, the Governor has the authority to enact a burning ban using Code of Virginia 10.1-1158, which covers all state and private lands.

  • Contact your county fire department. Counties may have more restrictive burning regulations.
  • The Governor will not give permission or special exemptions to allow burning on an individual basis.
  • National forest or national park questions should be directed to their nearest office.

County/Locality Burning Ban Authority

Because of the increased risk of wildfires, counties and localities have authority to enact a burning ban using Code of Virginia § 44-146.21 and § 15.2-922.1, which covers all state and private lands.

Questions and Answers

What is the statewide burn ban law §10.1-1158?

This law prohibits all open burning because of the serious wildfire hazard.

It shall be unlawful when the forestlands, brushlands and fields in this Commonwealth or any part thereof have become so dry as to create a serious fire hazard endangering lives and property, for any persons to do any open burning nearer than 300 feet from any such forestlands, brushlands or fields containing dry grass or other flammable material.

This article shall not be effective until the Governor, upon recommendation of the State Forester, proclaims such a condition to exist in this Commonwealth or any part thereof, and it shall be in effect until the Governor proclaims such condition to have terminated.

Any person violating the provisions of this section shall be guilty of a Class 3 misdemeanor for each separate offense.

When is the Law in effect?

When extreme wildfire conditions exist, the Governor in consultation with the state forester may declare a statewide burning ban.

Why is there such Law?

When wildfire conditions and weather conditions are in combination to cause or to possibly cause an extreme threat to the citizens of the commonwealth and or to the natural resources of Virginia all possible actions must be taken to protect the citizens and the natural resources of the commonwealth.

What is the main cause of wildfires in Virginia?

Debris burning is the Number One cause of wildfires, closely followed by intentionally set or "arson" fires.

How many wildfires burn in Virginia each year and how many acres are burned?

Virginia has records which date back to 1925, and our 30 year average is 1,449 fires for 8,338 acres per year. 1941 saw the most fires with 3,697, and 1930 had the most acreage burned at 333,023 acres.

Can I burn in a metal burn barrel?

Yes, if it is in good condition to contain all the flame and sparks within the barrel and if it has a ¼" or less mesh wire screen over the top.

Can I have a campfire if I put rocks around it?

NO. Campfires are considered an open air fire.

Can I have a pit fire?

Yes, IF…. A pit fire may be approved if it meets ALL the following conditions: Fire is BELOW GROUND LEVEL, continuously monitored AND completely enclosed with cinderblocks AND a ¼" or smaller metal screen is placed over the enclosure. Extra precautions should be taken to clear a 20-foot circle of all flammable materials and have water available. Suppression costs associated with any escaped fire will be the responsibility of the fire starter.

Can a propane camp stove be used? Yes, it is considered an approved contained stove.

Can a Coleman stove be used? Yes, it is considered an improved contained stove.

Can I have an approved, enclosed solid fuel, stove in the National Forest?

You must contact the National Forest or National Park involved as their requirements are quite different from the ones of the State Burning Ban.

Can I operate a charcoal grill for a cook-out?

Yes, but only if the container that holds the charcoal briquettes is in excellent condition with NO holes and the container is covered with a 1/4" wire mesh screen. The cooking grill can then be placed above this mesh screen.

Can I have a charcoal fire in one of the open grills in an approved, developed camp ground?

Yes. However it is recommended that you have a 1/4 inch (maximum) metal wire screen over the charcoal.

Can I have a wood fire in one of the open charcoal grills in an approved, developed camp ground?

No.

If I take all precautions with my fire and it does escape and start a wildfire, am I responsible for the suppression cost?

Yes. Although you may have taken all proper precautions and obtained any locally required permits, whoever started the fire is responsible should the fire escape.

What is the penalty for violating the state-wide burn ban law?

Violation of the law is a class 3 misdemeanor with a fine of not more than $500.

Are building contractors and road construction jobs exempt from the law?

No, however if the burning operations are greater than 300 feet from the woods or flammable grass/vegetation which would allow the fire to spread to the woods the law does not apply.

Can I have a candle in my jack-o-lanterns at Halloween?

Yes if the candle is completely contained within the jack-o-lantern and the jack-o-lantern is not surrounded by dry leaves or vegetation.

Can LUMINARY be used for holiday decorations?

NO, LUMINARY are a traditional holiday decoration in many homes and neighborhoods where a votive type candle flame is set within a sand weighted paper bag and placed outdoors to light a walk way or other decoration. Candle LUMINARY are considered an open flame – fire, and therefore not allowed if these candles are within 300 feet of grass, leaves, woods or other flammable material that is capable of igniting a fire, then it would be a violation of the ban on open burningIf the luminaries are a “container” that has ¼” or less size openings that will completely contain the candle and is made of a non-combustible material. A highly recommended alternative would be to use electric or battery lights or chemical glow sticks instead of candles.

Are Fireworks allowed?

No.

Can a fire department have an open burn for pre-scheduled training?

No. There are no exceptions to this.

Can a fire department have a burn for training in a certified burn building?

Yes, but only in a certified burn building. NO OPEN burning allowed.

Will hunting season be closed?

Not at this time. We are concerned and watching the weather. The State Forester and the director of the Department of Game & Inland Fisheries (DGIF) talk regularly. Everyone is working together to make sure hunters and outdoor recreationists are aware of the dry conditions and we are urging extreme caution. We have no recommendations for forest closure at this time and continue to involve our partnerr agencies, the Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry and Secretary of Natural Resources in all updates and discussions. We will take it one day at a time monitoring fire occurrence and weather.

Can I burn in the rain or right after it rains?

Technically, as long as the the grasses, leaves and pine straw (fine fuels) are wet and not flammable, the law does not apply and you could burn. HOWEVER as soon as those fuels dry out and become flammable then you are prohibited from burning and any fire you have MUST be completely extinguished or you will be in violation of the law.

A word of caution; light showers and events that only bring a minor amount of rain will do very little to ease the drought conditions AND with just a little bit of sunshine and wind the fine fuels will dry out quickly and once again become flammable. Virginia’s drought is severe – one rainfall event is not enough to end potential danger that we are facing this fall.