RALEIGH – In North Carolina, March through May is historically recognized as spring wildfire season, a period when conditions are more favorable for wildfire.
As residents begin working in their yards, the N.C. Forest Service urges them to think before burning yard debris. Watauga County Forest Ranger Andrew Harsey said that Watauga agencies responded to four wildfires within Watauga County just on March 8 — three of which were caused by debris burning.
“Every year, almost 40 percent of wildfires in North Carolina are the result of careless debris burning,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “To protect ourselves and our forestland from wildfire, we have to be responsible and vigilant. Check the weather. Make sure you’re prepared to burn before you do. Never leave a debris fire unattended, and always have a water source and phone nearby in case you need them.”
There are many factors to consider before burning yard debris. The N.C. Forest Service encourages residents to contact their local county forest ranger for technical advice and options to help ensure the safety of people, property and the forest. To find contact information for your local NCFS county ranger, visit www.ncforestservice.gov/contacts.
The N.C. Forest Service offers the following tips to protect property and prevent wildfires:
• Consider alternatives to burning. Some types of debris, such as leaves, grass and stubble, may be of more value if they are not burned, but used for compost or mulch instead.
• Check local burning laws. Some communities allow burning only during specified hours. Others forbid it entirely.
• Make sure to have a valid permit. A burn permit can be obtained at any open authorized permitting agent or online at www.ncforestservice.gov/burnpermit.
• Local fire officials can recommend a safe way to burn debris. Don’t pile vegetation on the ground. Instead, place it in a cleared area and contain it in a screened receptacle away from overhead branches and wires. Keep a pile small, not tall.
• Stay informed about the weather and possible weather changes. Postpone outdoor burning during high winds or gusts, or periods of low relative humidity. Even with a valid permit, stop burning if strong winds develop.
• Be sure to be fully prepared before burning. To control the fire, the following items are needed: hose, bucket, steel rake and a shovel for tossing dirt on the fire. Keep a phone nearby, too.
• Never use kerosene, gasoline, diesel fuel or other flammable liquids to speed up debris burning.
• Stay with a fire until it is completely out.