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W.Va. governor bans most outdoor burning

April 13, 2010

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) - Most outdoor burning is banned in West Virginia due to a dramatic increase in the number of wildfires and a forestry official said Monday that conditions will likely get worse.

The West Virginia Division of Forestry says the number of acres burned by wildfires has jumped since April 1 from 773 to almost 9,100. The number of fires has risen from 108 to 301.

Temperatures are expected to reach the upper 70s Tuesday through Thursday with little or no rain in the forecast until Friday.

"We're looking at sunshine, low humidities and no cloud cover," said Ben Webster, the state fire supervisor for the Division of Forestry. "With the leaves not being on the trees yet, all that sun is getting to the forest floor and really drying everything out."

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Debris escaping from outdoor burning is blamed for 126 fires and arson is attributed to 58.

The largest fire currently is about 280 acres on federal forest land in Hardy County.

Paul Lewis, Hardy County's emergency services director, said firefighters are still working to completely contain the fire, which occurred on Hunkerson Gap off W.Va. 259 between Mathias, W.Va., and the Virginia state line.

"They're still watching it and guarding it for hot spots," Lewis said.

Another fire last week in Hardy County burned 650 acres nears Wardensville, W.Va. No homes were lost in either fire, Lewis said.

Gov. Joe Manchin issued the burning ban Saturday. The ban will remain in effect until Manchin lifts it.

There are some exceptions to the ban. They include fires used for commercial land-cleaning and fires for outdoor cooking conducted for fundraising events and charitable organizations.

Grills, lanterns and liquid-fueled gas fire stoves also are exempt from the ban.

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