CHARLESTON — To reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires due to drought, Gov. Jim Justice has issued a proclamation that bans all outdoor burning throughout West Virginia, effective Friday.

The ban, which is necessary because of drought conditions and reduced water supply levels in some communities, will be in effect until conditions improve and the governor rescinds the order by further proclamation.

The order makes it unlawful for any person in the state to engage in outdoor burning, including fires built for camping, the burning of debris or warming.

The governor has instructed the Division of Forestry to enact a forest fire readiness plan and to enforce the ban on burning as outlined in West Virginia Code.

The proclamation orders the Division of Forestry and the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management to provide continuous information to the governor and the public regarding forest conditions. Additionally, the proclamation orders the Division of Natural Resources, the Office of the State Fire Marshal, the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, and the State Police to cooperate in the enforcement of this ban.

“We have experienced a significant, extended period of above average temperatures, low humidity and below average rainfall,” West Virginia Division of Forestry Director and State Forester Barry Cook said in a release. “In September alone, we have experienced 60 different fires in the state. Conditions have not been like this for 10 years. This ban helps ensure we are doing what we can to protect our forests, the public and private property from the damage that could occur from a forest fire.”

Several counties in Kentucky, including Pike County, have also issued bans on outdoor burning due to dry conditions. Kentucky's fall forest fire season begins Oct. 1 and prohibits fires within 150 feet of any woodland or brushland except between the hours of 6 p.m. and 6 a.m.

Ohio has not issued any bans yet, but outdoor open burning and prescribed fires are prohibited from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. throughout October and November.

The following items are excluded from the West Virginia restrictions:

n Fires for the purpose of chemical production, where fire is essential to operation.

n Fires for commercial land-clearing efforts like mining, highway construction and development. A pit-burner is required for these fires. A permit shall be obtained from the Division of Forestry prior to burning.

n Training fires conducted under the direct control and supervision of qualified instructors at a training facility operated by a fire department or government entity. A permit shall be obtained from the Division of Forestry prior to burning.

n Fires for commercial outdoor cooking, including cooking for fairs and festivals. A water source capable of extinguishing the fire must be present.

n Liquid-fueled gas fire stoves, grills or lanterns.

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