Gov. Tim Kaine wanted all Virginians to know that the low humidity and windy days that are characteristic of spring in Virginia increase the risk of wildland fire when combined with dry leaves, downed branches and brown grass found in the Commonwealth this time of year.
To help reduce the risk of wildland fires, Governor Kaine met with Smokey Bear at the Executive Mansion on Tuesday, March 6th to address the citizens of Virginia through the news media and to attach a 4 p.m. Burning Law bumper sticker to his vehicle. With news crews on hand from across the state, the event helped draw attention to the dangers associated with wildland fires in the Commonwealth.
“The Burn Law dates back to the 1940s, and, during this season when we have strong winds and lower humidity, it’s an important step to help us reduce the number of wildfires occurring across Virginia,” said Governor Kaine. “The Burn Law prohibits – before 4 p.m. each day – open-air burning in or within 300 feet of woodland, brushland or any fields that contain dry grass or other flammable materials.”
The Burn Law is in effect from Feb. 15 through April 30 each year. A violation of the law is a Class 3 misdemeanor that carries up to a $500 fine. If the fire escapes, the responsible person is also liable for the costs of suppressing the fire.
The day before the news conference, a citizen in Chesterfield County experienced first hand the effects of an escaped debris burn. Her home was destroyed by a fire that was burning before 4 p.m., under red-flag conditions, in a barrel outside her home. See the photo of her home engulfed in flames.
In addition to the Governor and Smokey, Secretary of Forestry and Agriculture Robert Bloxom, State Forester Carl Garrison, Asst. State Forester Ron Jenkins, Resource Protection Director John Miller, Asst. Resource Protection Director Larry Cochran, HR Director Debbie Howe, Webmaster Gregg O’Donnell, Sussex County Forester Zach Dowling and Hanover County Forestry Technician Kathleen Ogilvy took part in the event and their support was greatly appreciated.
Special thanks to: Asst. Director of Resource Protection Fred Turck for proposing the idea to have the Governor and Smokey meet; Janet Muncy for developing the signage; Vernon Wilson for suiting up; and to Kevin Hall and Steven Gould from the Governor’s Office for their work behind the scenes.