No outdoor fire ban for now, dry weather could force action
Local fire officials are not pushing the panic button just yet, but there are hints of an outdoor burning ban being enacted if the current pattern of hot, dry weather continues.
After conferring Saturday with state Department of Forestry officials, who have been monitoring moisture content in the ground, New Kent Fire Chief Tommy Hicks said there are no plans to institute a burning ban for now.
“At the moment, the thunderstorms and rain showers we’ve received over the past couple of weeks have provided a little bit of added relief,” he said. “There will be no ban on Monday, and we’ll continue to evaluate the situation over the next couple of weeks. In the meantime, we’re asking people to be careful with fire.”
Hicks alerted county Board of Supervisors members during the board’s July 12 meeting as to the imminent fire danger. And late last week, a spokesperson in Charles City County said talk of a fire ban there has been tossed about, but “nothing concrete” has been decided.
Those mostly affected by a ban will be contractors who often burn waste, Hicks said. Some residents, meanwhile, use burn barrels to incinerate trash, and that would have to stop if a ban is put in place, he added.
Contributing to the situation is the careless tossing of cigarette butts from autos traveling on local roads, Hicks added. Then there are plenty of fields, forestland, and downed trees littering forest floors that can serve as fuel for a fire.
And compounding the problem is a cutback in state highway department mowing operations along roads. “That makes things more challenging,” Hicks told supervisors.
If action is not taken sooner, supervisors could be discussing the prospect of imposing a burning ban during their July 28 work session.
In other business during the board’s July 12 meeting, supervisors voted 5-0 to amend the county’s law governing illegal parking in fire and emergency vehicle lanes by enacting a uniform fine for those convicted of violations.
Earlier this year, supervisors approved a law that imposed a $100 fine if violators chose to waive a court appearance. Violators appearing in court, however, were subject to a $150 fine.
County General District Court Judge Jeffrey Shaw detected the discrepancy, electing to impose a $100 fine for all violations. In their action last week, supervisors followed suit, enacting a uniform $100 fine.