Botetourt County declares local emergency and burn ban

BOTETOURT COUNTY, Va. (WDBJ7) - Today Governor Northam announced a statewide drought watch advisory for the Commonwealth. Boutetourt County is also getting serious about the potential effects of this drought.

Even though Botetourt's rolling countryside is starting to show its fall colors and the skies above are a peaceful blue, firefighters worry their hometown could become a very different landscape.

Battalion Chief Camille Black is making sure those driving past the station are fully aware things could get out of hand. She swaps the fire danger sign from moderate, to extreme.

"The weather's unpredictable and if you see, you know you can walk on the grass now and it crunches just as you walk under it so soon as you know someone throws out a cigarette butt," she said, "even something that simple can cause a catastrophic fire."

That's why Botetourt has initiated a burn ban, joining at least a dozen other Virginia counties.

But Botetourt is also calling for a local state of emergency, to make sure the message comes across loud and clear.

"Botetourt has not adopted fire code," Black said. "So if someone violates the burn ban that's in effect now, it's punishable by a class three misdemeanor."

Chief Black says she hopes people take the warning seriously, as Botetourt and other counties devolve into potential tinder boxes.

"It puts a little more weight behind it.," she said. "You know if it's just a firefighter who says you know you probably shouldn't burn that you know someone may not take that seriously. But if you have a law enforcement officer who says hey, there could be some charges that would incur as a result of burning something then that would deter someone a little bit more."

The National Weather Service's weather observation site just south of the county line has recorded a total rainfall amount of 1.18 inches in the month of September. The normal average rainfall is 4.14 inches