Southampton burn ban continues

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 30, 2007

COURTLAND—With most of Southampton County still facing drought conditions, supervisors voted Monday night to continue the county’s ban on open burning.

&uot;It’s still critically dry,&uot; said Berlin-Ivor District Supervisor Ronald M. West. He said recent rains have only penetrated the ground’s surface, leaving deeper soil dry.

Gov. Timothy M. Kaine removed the state’s ban on open fires Nov. 15, but localities retain the right to enforce their own prohibitions. Southampton’s will remain in effect until 12:01

a.m. Dec. 22.

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, most of Southampton and the southern portion of Isle of Wight County were experiencing &uot;severe&uot; drought conditions as of Nov. 20. That report, sponsored by the United States Department of Agriculture, had listed Southampton’s situation as &uot;extreme&uot; in October.

The state’s drought has moderated somewhat as a result of rains in late October, but rainfall in early November slackened again, with the Chowan River region receiving just a fourth of its normal amounts.

Precipitation in the Chowan region was just 64 percent of its average 12-month level through mid-November, according to a Nov. 20 report of the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality’s Drought Monitoring Task Force.

Violators of the county’s burn ban are subject to fines of up to $250, and county leaders plan to get out the word that it is still in effect.

Supervisors said there had been some local confusion when the governor rescinded the statewide prohibition and that some residents had been misinformed when they asked whether they could have bonfires and such.

County Administrator Michael Johnson said he would remind the Sheriff’s Department of the county’s ordinance.

Isle of Wight announced Nov. 16 that its own ban on open fires would continue, despite the governor’s statewide action.