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Western N.C. drought continues to pose fire risk

Western N.C. drought continues to pose fire risk

Posted on November 10, 2016

Union County Ranger warns against burning

MONROE – The N.C. Forest Service is joining forces with the U.S. Forest Service, the National Park Service, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs to warn people in Western North Carolina that the lack of rainfall in the area has increased the probability of wildfires.

In fact, as of 5 p.m., Monday, November 07, 2016, a ban on all open burning has been put in place for the western most 25 counties, and all burning permits have been canceled in those counties. The ban on open burning is necessary because of the dry weather conditions and potential for the increase in human caused wildfires in the western part of the state.

As autumn progresses, many homeowners will be cleaning up their yards and burning debris such as sticks and leaves. “Residents need to be careful when burning yard debris. The number one cause for wildfires in the state is careless debris burning.” said Andy Cranfill, Union County Ranger with the N.C. Forest Service. He warns that it may be better to avoid burning because if your fire gets out you may be endangering not only your life and property but that of your neighbors.

If you choose to burn there are many factors to consider before burning debris or lighting a campfire. Always check the weather prior to burning, and follow state and local regulations. Have an adequate safe distance from other flammable material, especially wooded areas and flammable material that may lead to houses. With all fires, be sure to tend to it until the debris pile or campfire is completely out.

Another concern is that with the cooling weather many people will be heating their homes with wood-burning stoves and fireplaces. Often, users will dispose of ashes in a wooded area. If these ashes aren’t completely extinguished, they could cause a wildfire. Always be sure ashes are dead out, and dispose of them in a metal container with a cover.

Landowners with electric fences should also be aware that dry, high grass, is susceptible to catching fire from even the smallest of sparks. A grass fire can quickly consume a barn or home and spread to wooded areas.

While less common, a spark from a passing train, a dragging trailer chain, or any spark caused by machine use, or even a lit cigarette, can ignite dry fuels such as grass and leaves.

Fire experts agree that this fall’s wildfire season has the potential to get worse, especially if there are heavy winds. Due to the high probability of a campfire escaping and causing a wildfire, the National Park Service has also issued a halt to all campfires in the backcountry of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, as has the U.S. Forest Service in the backcountry of the lands they manage. Those building campfire in an established campground should use existing fire rings if possible and clear a safe area around them of at least 10 feet. Campers should also be sure to never leave campfires unattended, and ensure they are completely out before leaving.

Careless debris burning is the top cause of wildfires in North Carolina. The N.C. Forest Service encourages residents considering debris burning to contact their county forest ranger. The ranger can offer technical advice and explain the best options to help maximize the safety to people, property and the forest. To learn your county ranger’s number or more safe burning tips, visit the N.C. Forest Service website at ncforestservice.gov.

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