Frequently Asked Questions

Wildfire Prevention

Find out if there is a local burning restriction in your area.

  1. Is my home at risk for wildfire?
  2. What are the main causes of wildfires in Virginia?
  3. What should I do before wildfires threaten?
  4. What is defensible space? And how do I create a defensible space?
  5. What types of plants are fire resistant?
  6. What type of roof construction is fire-resistant? What type of exterior construction is fire-resistant?
  7. What conditions cause wildfires?

Is my home at risk for wildfire?
The land use in your area and the type of vegetation around your home contributes to wildfire risk. Living in a woodland setting, in or near rural areas is also a risk factor.

What are the main causes of wildfires in Virginia?
People start most wildfires. Escaped debris burning, smoking materials not disposed of properly and arson are some of the causes. Learn more about the causes of wildfires in Virginia.

What should I do before wildfire threatens?
Design and landscape your home with wildfire safety in mind. Plan fire-resistant shrubs and trees. Create a defensible space around your home. Use fire-resistant roof and exterior construction. Or treat wood or combustible material used in roofs, siding, decking or trim with UL-approved fire retardant chemicals. Create a disaster plan. Make sure your house number is easy to read on your home.

For more information, please visit our Firewise section.

What is defensible space? And how do I create a defensible space?
Defensible space is an area at least 30 feet of lean, clean and green space surrounding your home. This space gives firefighters room to fight fires.
Make your yard firewise by pruning shrubs and tree branches within 15 feet of your chimney or stovepipe. Remove dead tree branches that extend over the roof. Make your yard clean by raking leaves and removing dead tree limbs and twigs. Stack firewood at least 100 feet away from your home. Make your yard green by removing flammable vegetation and replacing it with fire-resistant plants.

For more information, please visit our Firewise section.

What types of plants are fire resistant?
Dogwood, viburnum, redbud, sycamore, magnolia, oaks, red maple, azalea, sweet gum, persimmon, are a few examples of fire resistant plants. See a complete listing of Virginia vegetation and their "fire resistance."

What type of roof construction is fire-resistant? What type of exterior construction is fire-resistant?
Class-A asphalt shingles, metal, slate and terra cotta products help resist fires. Added protection is a fire-resistant sub-roof. Fire-resistant wall materials are cement, plaster, stucco and concrete masonry. Windows that are double paned glass can also help a home be more resistant to heat and flames.

For more information, please visit our Firewise section.

What conditions cause wildfires?

  • Prolonged drought can cause tender plants to die and dry out, creating fuel for wildfires.
  • Cold weather, particularly during drought, speeds the dying and drying process.
  • Thunderstorms bring only limited relief when the woods are dry. Plants and trees dry again quickly, leaving potential for wildfire.
  • Wind dries plants and trees, and can cause fires to spread. Burning on windy days increases the potential for wildfire.

When is the 4 p.m. Law in effect?
The 4 p.m. law comes into effect February 15th and remains in effect through April 30th.

I am still trying to clean up after Isabel and want to burn some piles; can I get a special exemption to burn?
NO. There will be no exemptions allowed to the 4 p.m. law. However, you can burn your piles after 4 p.m. as long as your locality has no restrictions that prohibit burning. be sure you obey all other forest fire laws.

But even if I wait till after 4 p.m. to start the pile burning it will burn for several days, is this a violation to the 4 p.m. law.
The law allows for this and as long as you do not stir the pile or add additional fuel(branches, etc) to the fire after midnight until 4 p.m. the next day you are legal. REMEMBER - you are responsible for your fire and any damage or suppression costs if it escapes. Also there are other fire laws that you must be aware of and obey by. The main one when burning piles is that you MUST not leave your fire unattended at anytime as long as there are flames present. Read Virginia's Forest Fire Laws.

Can I have a campfire if I put rocks around it?
NO. Campfires are considered an open burn. A pit fire or campfire 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.

If I take all precautions with my campfire after 4 p.m. and it does start a fire, 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.

Can I burn trash in my county?
The 4 p.m. law is in effect in every county and most cities/towns. This law prohibits having an open fire before 4 p.m. from February 15th through April 30th. In addition, your locality may have other restrictions in place and you should contact your local sheriff or fire marshals office.

I live within the town limits and tore down an old house. Can I burn it after 4:00 pm? Can we haul it off and burn portions of the debris at a time?
Please refer to the previous question and answer. The burning of an old building would have to follow the same restrictions. In addition there are several Environmental Quality Air restrictions that will restrict what types of materials you can burn and you need to contact your local Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) office for guidance.

Last modified: Tuesday, 25-Nov-2014 12:15:52 EST