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Governor enacts burn ban, orders Guardsmen to fire training

August 18, 1999|By BRYN MICKLE

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - An open burning ban has been ordered for the Eastern Panhandle by West Virginia Gov. Cecil Underwood.

Severe drought conditions in the area have combined to create a potentially dangerous situation with extremely dry conditions and low water supplies to fight fires.

The ban goes into effect at noon today and will remain in place until the drought situation improves.

"Even a well-intentioned fire can get away," Martinsburg Fire Department Lt. Charles Eversole said. "Those dangers are multiplied with the dryness out there."

The ban prohibits people from burning debris and building camp fires.

The dry conditions have created a situation where something as small as a discarded cigarette could ignite dry crops and grass, Eversole said.

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"We're extremely lucky we haven't already had a lot of field and woods fires with the way things are right now," he said.

The burn ban covers Berkeley, Jefferson, Morgan, Grant, Hampshire, Hardy, Mineral and Pendleton counties.

There are several exceptions to the ban:

* Fires built for food preparation within 50 feet of a constant pressurized water source to put out the fire.

* Division of Forestry-approved fires for commercial land clearings.

* State approved fires for fire department or government training sessions.

* Liquid-fueled gas stoves, grills and lanterns.

The ban could be extended to other parts of West Virginia if the drought continues, Underwood said.

West Virginia will also start training 100 National Guard members to work as fire bosses for the upcoming fall forest fire season.

The training sessions begin Aug. 28 and 29 in Kanawha County and are part of an $11 million emergency drought package the state Legislature approved Tuesday night.

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