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§20-3-5. Forest fire seasons; prohibited and permissible fires; burning permits and fees; fire control measures; criminal and civil penalties.

(a) Forest fire seasons. — March 1 through May 31, and October 1 through December 31 are designated as forest fire seasons. During any fire season, a person may set on fire or cause to be set on fire any forest land, or any grass, grain, stubble, slash, debris, or other inflammable materials only between 5 p.m. and 7 a.m., at which time the fire must be extinguished.

(b) Permissible fires during forest fire seasons. — The following attended fires are permitted during forest fire season as set forth in subsection (a) of this section without a burning permit unless there is a burning ban in effect:

(1) Small fires set for the purpose of food preparation, or providing light or warmth around which all grass, brush, stubble, or other debris has been removed for a distance of 10 feet from the fire; and

(2) Burning conducted at any time when the ground surrounding the burning site is covered by one inch or more of snow.

(c) Burning permits. — The director or his or her designee may issue burning permits authorizing fires during forest fire seasons as set forth in subsection (a) of this section that are otherwise prohibited by this section. The permits shall state the requisite conditions and time frame to prevent danger from the fire to life or property: Provided, That the director or his or her designee shall take final action upon all completed permit applications within 30 days of receipt if the application is uncontested, or within 90 days if the application is contested.

(1) Permit fees. — Entities required to pay a permit fee are those engaged in commercial, manufacturing, public utility, mining, and like activities. Agricultural activities are exempt from paying the permit fee. The permit fee is $125 per site and shall be deposited into the Division of Forestry Fund (3081) to be used to administer the provisions of this section. The permit fee covers the fire season during which it is issued.

(2) Noncompliance with any condition of the permit is a violation of this section. Any permit which was obtained through willful misrepresentation is invalid and violates this section.

(3) Permit holders shall take all necessary and adequate precautions to confine and control fires authorized by the permit. Failure to take action is a violation of this section and is justification for the director to revoke the permit.

(d) Fire control. —

(1) With approval of the Governor, the director may prohibit the starting of and require the extinguishment of fire in any designated area, including fires permitted by this section.

(2) With approval of the Governor, the director may designate any forest area as a danger area, prohibit entry, and declare conditional uses and prohibited areas of the forest by proclamation at any time of the year. The proclamation shall be furnished to newspapers, radio stations, and television stations that serve the designated area and becomes effective after 24 hours. The proclamation remains in effect until the director, with the approval of the Governor, terminates it. The order shall designate the time of termination, and notice of the order shall be furnished to each newspaper, radio station, and television station that received a copy of the proclamation.

(3) A person shall remove all flammable material from the area immediately surrounding the material to be burned for a distance which ensures the fire will at all times be contained; this safety strip shall in no event be less than 10 feet wide. Any person or his or her agent or employee who sets or causes to be set any fire which escapes the safety strip and causes damage to the lands of another is guilty of a misdemeanor.

(e) Criminal and civil penalties. — A person or entity that violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor and, upon conviction, shall be fined not less than $100 and not more than $1,000 for each violation. In addition to fines and costs, a person or entity convicted of a violation of this section shall pay a $200 civil penalty to the division within 60 days. The civil penalty shall be collected by the court in which the person is convicted and forwarded to the division and deposited in the Division of Forestry Fund (3081) to be used to administer the provisions of this section.

Note: WV Code updated with legislation passed through the 2020 Regular Session
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