Today’s Topic: Be careful when burning yard debris in spring

by | Mar 1, 2016


Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler sits down each week with Southern Farm Network’s Rhonda Garrison to discuss “Today’s Topic.”

March 1 traditionally marks the beginning of spring wildfire season in North Carolina. The risk of wildfire in our state is typically higher between March and May. It’s also a time of year when people are doing a lot of yard work and cleaning up debris from the winter. Farmers clean up agricultural residue and forestland litter this time of year, too.

The N.C. Forest Service is reminding residents to be very careful if they decide to burn any of those leaves, limbs and other debris. Debris burning is the leading cause of wildfires in North Carolina.

If you’re thinking about burning debris, make sure you can do it legally in your community. Some communities allow burning only during specified hours, and others prohibit it entirely.

Before you burn debris, consider alternatives such as composting. Leaves and grass may be more valuable as compost.

If you are going to burn debris, contact your county forest ranger first. The ranger can offer technical advice and explain the best options to help maximize safety for people, property and the forest.

Rangers also can assist with obtaining an approved burning permit. Permits also are available through a county-approved permit agent and online.

Here are some tips for burning debris safely:

  • Check the weather. Don’t burn if conditions are dry or windy.
  • Only burn natural vegetation from your property. Burning household trash or any other man-made materials is illegal. Trash should be hauled away to a convenience center.
  • Plan burning for the late afternoon when conditions are typically less windy and more humid.
  • If you must burn, be prepared. Use a shovel or hoe to clear a perimeter around the area where you plan to burn.
  • Keep fire tools ready. To control the fire, you will need a hose, bucket, a steel rake and a shovel for tossing dirt on the fire.
  • Never use flammable liquids such as kerosene, gasoline or diesel fuel to speed burning.
  • Stay with your fire until it is completely out. In North Carolina, human carelessness leads to more wildfires than any other cause. In fact, debris burning is the No. 1 cause of wildfires in the state.
  • These same tips hold true for campfires and barbeques, too. Douse burning charcoal briquettes or campfire thoroughly with water. When the coals are soaked, stir them and soak them again. Be sure they are out cold and carefully feel to be sure they are extinguished. Never dump hot ashes or coals into a wooded area.
  • Burning agriculture residue and forestland litter: In addition to the advice above, a fire line should be plowed around the area to be burned. Large fields should be separated into small plots for burning one at a time. Before doing any burning in a wooded area, contact your county ranger, who will weigh all factors, explain them and offer technical advice.

Click on the audio player below to hear Commissioner Troxler and Rhonda discuss fire safety in springtime. And for more information about fire safety, visit

[Audio:/wp-content/uploads/Troxler_3-1-16.mp3|titles=Today’s Topic for March 1]

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