In this blog post, we will explain what the burn laws in West Virginia are, when they apply, and how to follow them safely and legally.
These laws are designed to prevent forest fires and protect the environment, wildlife, and public health. Ignoring or violating these laws can result in fines, penalties, and even criminal charges.
What are the burn laws in West Virginia?
The burn laws in West Virginia are a set of rules and restrictions that govern outdoor burning in the state. They are enforced by the West Virginia Division of Forestry (WVDOF), which is responsible for protecting and managing the state’s forest resources.
The burn laws in West Virginia include the following:
- General burning guidelines: These apply to all outdoor burning, regardless of the season or the purpose. They require that all fires must have a ring or safety strip of at least 10 feet wide, cleared of burnable material, around the debris pile. The fire must be attended until completely extinguished. Only vegetative materials such as leaves, brush, and yard clippings are permitted to be burned. Fines for forest fires due to negligence range from $100 to $1,000, with an additional civil penalty of $200.
- Burning season guidelines: These apply to outdoor burning during the spring and fall forest fire seasons, which run from March 1 to May 31 and from October 1 to December 31. During these seasons, outdoor burning is prohibited during the daytime hours of 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. If burning has occurred during permitted hours (5 p.m. to 7 a.m.), the fire must be completely extinguished by 7 a.m. Burning season prohibitions exclude small fires for the purpose of food preparation, warmth, or light, and burning when the ground is covered by one inch of snow or more.
- Commercial burning permits: These are required for outdoor burning during prohibited periods for commercial purposes, such as land clearing, construction, or agriculture. A permit can be obtained from the WVDOF for a fee of $125 per year. The permit holder must follow the general burning guidelines and any additional conditions specified by the WVDOF.
- Spark-throwing machinery guidelines: These apply to the operation of spark-throwing machinery, such as power shovels or sawmills, on land subject to fire. The machinery must contain an adequate spark arrestor, and the operator must take precautions to prevent the escape of fire to adjacent lands.
- Inflammable waste disposal guidelines: These apply to the disposal of inflammable waste, such as tires, plastics, or chemicals, on land subject to fire. The disposal area must be cleared of all grass, brush, debris, and other inflammable material annually, and the operator must take precautions to prevent the escape of fire to adjacent lands1.
Why are the burn laws in West Virginia important?
The burn laws in West Virginia are important for several reasons. They help to:
- Prevent forest fires: Forest fires are a serious threat to the state’s forests, wildlife, and people. They can destroy homes, businesses, and infrastructure, and cause injuries, deaths, and environmental damage. According to the WVDOF, more than 90% of forest fires in West Virginia are caused by human activity, mostly by debris burning2. The burn laws aim to reduce the risk of forest fires by limiting and regulating outdoor burning, especially during the dry and windy seasons.
- Protect the environment: Outdoor burning can produce harmful smoke, ash, and pollutants that can affect the air quality, water quality, and soil quality of the state. These can harm the health of humans, animals, and plants, and contribute to climate change and acid rain. The burn laws aim to protect the environment by restricting the types and amounts of materials that can be burned, and by requiring proper safety measures and disposal methods.
- Comply with federal and state regulations: Outdoor burning is subject to federal and state regulations, such as the Clean Air Act and the West Virginia Air Pollution Control Act. These regulations set standards and limits for emissions and pollutants from outdoor burning, and require permits and approvals for certain types of burning. The burn laws aim to comply with these regulations by following the best practices and guidelines for outdoor burning.
How to follow the burn laws in West Virginia safely and legally?
To follow the burn laws in West Virginia safely and legally, you should:
- Check the weather and fire conditions: Before you start any outdoor burning, you should check the weather forecast and the fire danger map for your area. You should avoid burning on dry, windy, or hot days, or when there is a fire ban or alert in effect. You can find the fire danger map and fire alerts on the WVDOF website.
- Check the burn laws and regulations: Before you start any outdoor burning, you should check the burn laws and regulations that apply to your situation. You should know the general burning guidelines, the burning season guidelines, and the permit requirements for your type of burning. You should also check with your local fire department, county, or municipality for any additional rules or restrictions that may apply to your area.
- Prepare your burn site and materials: Before you start any outdoor burning, you should prepare your burn site and materials according to the burn laws and regulations. You should clear a safety strip of at least 10 feet wide around your debris pile, and remove any flammable or hazardous materials from the area. You should only burn vegetative materials, and avoid burning trash, tires, plastics, chemicals, or treated wood. You should also have a water source, a shovel, and a fire extinguisher nearby in case of emergency.
- Attend and control your fire: During your outdoor burning, you should attend and control your fire at all times. You should never leave your fire unattended, and you should keep it within the safety strip and away from any structures, power lines, or roads. You should also monitor the wind direction and speed, and adjust your fire accordingly. You should also be considerate of your neighbors, and avoid creating excessive smoke or nuisance.
- Extinguish and dispose of your fire: After your outdoor burning, you should extinguish and dispose of your fire properly. You should make sure that your fire is completely out and cold before you leave the site. You should use water, dirt, or sand to smother the fire, and stir the ashes until no smoke or heat is detected. You should also dispose of the ashes and debris in a safe and legal manner, and avoid dumping them in streams, rivers, or lakes.
You can also enjoy your outdoor burning safely and legally, and avoid fines, penalties, and criminal charges.
If you have any questions or concerns about the burn laws in West Virginia, you can contact the WVDOF at 304-558-2788 or visit their website. You can also report any violations or forest fires to the WVDOF or your local fire department.
Remember, only you can prevent forest fires. Be smart, be safe, and be legal when you burn outdoors in West Virginia.