Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

December 5, 2012

Officials: Brush fire accidentally set by children

Bluefield Daily Telegraph

GREEN VALLEY — A brush fire that burned along mountains in the Ada and Green Valley areas of Mercer County last November was kindled by children, a state forester said Tuesday.

Local volunteer fire departments monitored the brush fire that burned near Green Valley and along Ada Road from Nov. 10 to 11 to keep it from spreading to homes and other structures. No property damage was reported at that time.

Chris White, fire forester supervisor with the West Virginia Division of Forestry, stated that investigators later determined that children had set the fire by accident.

“The one in Ada was started by children,” White said. “That’s about all I can say about it.”

White checked his records and said that Mercer County and neighboring McDowell County had seen a combined total of 42 fires this fall. Approximately 2,400 acres were burned, he said.

“Seventeen of the calls were arson fires,” White said. Three of these fires were in Mercer County at Ingleside and Hurricane Ridge. The Bluefield Fire Department quickly extinguished one reported at Thorn Street.

There is a $2,500 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of arsonists, White said. The forestry division’s arsonist hotline is 1-800-233-FIRE.

West Virginia has seen  279 forest fires this year that burned 9,513 acres. Fire conditions recorded Tuesday across the state rated the potential danger for fires at moderate to high, White said.

“We’ve been extremely dry for long periods,” he said. “Even the little bit of rain we’ve had does not help much.”

The West Virginia's fall forest fire season runs through Dec. 31. Daytime burning is prohibited from the hours of 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Outdoor burning is permitted only between the hours of 5 p.m. and 7 a.m., according to state forestry officials.

State law requires a ring or safety strip around outdoor fires to keep the fire from spreading into the woods. This safety strip must be cleared of all flammable material and be at least 10 feet wide completely around the debris pile. Additional requirements of the state’s fire laws include staying on-site until the fire is completely extinguished, and only burning plant materials like leaves, brush and yard clippings.

People who allow a fire to escape and cause a wildfire or forest fire could face fines ranging from $100 to $1,000. An additional civil penalty of $200 also will be assessed, according to forestry officials.�