Suffolk homeowner charged after stump burning snowballs into large brush fire

DeerPath Command.jpg
Posted at 4:25 PM, Apr 27, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-30 19:29:41-04

SUFFOLK, Va. - A Suffolk homeowner has been charged after a fire he started on his property in the 3800 block of Deer Path Road earlier this week snowballed into a large brush fire.

Officials were contacted at 1:13 p.m. Tuesday for reports of the brush fire in the area.

Deputy Chief Ted Adams said multiple units, including engines, brush trucks, and tankers, responded to the densely wooded area, in addition to multiple units and plows from the Virginia Department of Forestry.

Due to windy and dry conditions, firefighters said the fire jumped fire lines and extended into the trees in several areas.

The Virginia Department of Forestry and several Suffolk Fire & Rescue Brush Trucks remained on scene in the event of any flare-ups.

The road in the area of Deer Path Road and Milford Lane, as well as Deer Path Road and Indian Trail, was closed to traffic.

On Friday, the Suffolk Fire Marshal's Office announced that after an investigation, charges were placed against the homeowner in connection with the brush fire.

The fire marshal, Battalion Chief Chris Cornwell, said warrants have been secured for 43-year-old Richard L. Hill of Suffolk on charges including Careless Damaging Property by Fire (Class IV Misdemeanor); Regulating the Burning of Woods, Brush, etc.; Penalties – 4 p.m. Burn Law (Class III Misdemeanor); and Deliberate or Negligent Burning (Class 1 Misdemeanor).

Officials say Hill had contacted Suffolk Fire & Rescue after he was unable to put out a fire he started while burning a stump on his property on Deer Path Road.

The Virginia Department of Forestry estimated that about 40 acres of woodlands were burned during the incident. Multiple homes in the area were evacuated for about five hours, and several roads were closed as crews from Suffolk Fire & Rescue and several other departments and volunteer groups that provided mutual aid worked to put out the spreading fire.

A plane provided by the Department of Forestry dumped more than 1,900 gallons of water in the affected wooded area.

The Fire Marshal’s Office has instituted a ban on all open burning in the city until otherwise advised.

People are also reminded that there is no open air burning allowed from May 1 through September 30. This restriction comes from the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, and it was also adopted as an ordinance by Suffolk’s City Council in January 2007 to improve the city’s declining air quality and to reduce the number of responses for refuse, grass, brush and woodland fires.

The open burn ban includes all types of burning from burning in a barrel to commercial land clearing operations. The use of special incineration devices is also included. In Suffolk, failure to comply with the burn ban can result in a fine of up to $2,500 and one year in jail as well as a bill for extinguishing the fire.

Suffolk residence are encouraged to take advantage of the city's bulk pickup service to remove yard debris or to carry the debris to a local landfill for disposal. In cases where large amounts of debris are involved, property owners may want to consider hiring a contractor to remove the debris. Click here to read more about open burning in the City of Suffolk.

There were no injuries during this incident.

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