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CHARLESTON — Autumn traditionally signals cooler temperatures, leaves changing colors and the start of the fall fire season.

Fall fire season began in West Virginia on Thursday and continues through Dec. 31, according to the West Virginia Division of Forestry.

Burning vegetative materials is limited to the hours of 5 p.m. to 7 a.m. and any fires set during that time must be extinguished before 7 a.m., the agency said in a news release.

“The restrictions are there to protect West Virginia’s people, property and forests,” Division of Forestry Director Tom Cover said in the release. “Humidity levels are typically lower in fall than in summer. Dry leaves and forest floor debris become more flammable. After 5 p.m., relative humidity increases, the leaf litter absorbs moisture and the material becomes less flammable.”

The Division of Forestry reports that debris burning ranks as the state’s leading cause of fires.

A summary of forest fire laws can be found on the Division of Forestry’s website at wvforestry.com/laws-regulations/fire.