Extra caution is urged for debris burning as the state enters what could be an active spring fire season. With dry conditions lingering in some areas of the state and with wildfires this year running well above average, the N.C. Forest Service offers tips on reducing the risk of wildfires.
Summary of Talking Points:
- Spring fire season is here and ongoing dry conditions in several counties in the state means anyone burning yard debris or starting fires need to be especially careful that they don’t get out of control.
- In looking at the Drought Monitor, as of Feb 22, there are 9 counties in Southeastern North Carolina in the moderate drought category and 53 counties listed as abnormally dry. Those include counties in the central part of the state, along the border with South Carolina, and extending up through the northeastern coastal areas.
- Our Forest Service staff have reported higher than average wildfire activity already this year. They have worked 1,832 wildfires, compared to an average of 447. With persistently dry conditions we could see this trend continue, putting more forest acreage at risk.
- We know people tend to burn yard debris this time of year, as they are cleaning up their yards and getting ready for new plants and new plant growth.
- I encourage them to be careful when doing that, get a burn permit from their county ranger, watch conditions and do not burn on windy days, have a hose, water, shovel and bucket handy and do not leave a fire unattended.
- Some yard waste such as leaves, grass and stubble can be composted and turned into mulch, which is beneficial for plant beds by holding in moisture and returning nutrients to the soil. People may want to consider that as an alternative to burning.
- A few more tips to consider are:
- Checking local burning laws to see what is allowed in your community. Some have certain hours for burning.
- I mentioned a burn permit. Those can be obtained at the local county N.C. Forest Service office or online at www.ncforestservice.gov.
- Put your burn pile or burn site in a cleared area and contain the material in a screened container away from overhead branches and wires.
- When burning agricultural residue and forestland litter, plow a fire line around the area to be burned. Large fields should be separated into small plots for burning one at a time. Prior to any burning in a wooded area, contact your Forest Service county ranger for technical advice on burning.
- Never use kerosene, gasoline, diesel fuel or other flammable liquids to speed up debris burning.
- Campfires and grills also need to be watched and monitored closely. Douse burning charcoal briquettes or campfires thoroughly with water. Drown all embers, not just the red ones. When soaked, stir the coals and soak them again. Make sure everything is wet and that embers are cold to the touch. If you do not have water, mix enough dirt or sand with the embers to extinguish the fire, being careful not to bury the fire. Never dump hot ashes or coals into a wooded area.
- My final reminder is for the public not to fly a drone in or around a wildfire. While it is against the law and could lead to civil penalties and fines, the biggest concern is that it can greatly hinder our Forest Service’s ability to respond.
- Drones flying over fires compromises the safety of N.C. Forest Service pilots and interferes with firefighting efforts.
- Simply put, if you fly, we can’t. And in the case of a wildfire, it is more important for our fire crews to be able to fly than you.