N.C. Forest Service offers tips for fire prevention

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Ahead of expected busy fall wildfire season, fire officials urge caution and offer tips for prevention.

RALEIGH – As we enter the start of the fall wildfire season, the N.C. Forest Service and the USDA Forest Service urge visitors and North Carolinians to be cautious with campfires and when burning yard debris.

The fall wildfire season typically lasts from mid-October until mid-December, the time of year when people do a lot of yard work that may include burning leaves and yard debris. The leading cause of wildfires in North Carolina is debris burning. When left unattended, debris fires can escape and start wildfires.

“We will not forget the 2016 fall wildfire season that burned more than 59,511 acres across North Carolina,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “As we head into this fall fire season facing similarly dry weather conditions, let’s remember that each of us can do our part to avoid to prevent wildfires. It is important to exercise extreme caution while burning debris of any kind.”

There are many factors to consider before burning debris. The N.C. Forest Service encourages residents to contact their local county forest ranger before burning debris. The ranger can offer technical advice and explain the best options to help ensure the safety of people, property and the forest. To find contact information for your local county ranger, visit the N.C. Forest Service website.

For people who choose to burn debris, 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 mulch instead.
  • Check local burning laws. Some communities allow burning only during specified hours. Others forbid it entirely.
  • Make sure you have a valid permit. You can obtain a burn permit at any N.C. Forest Service office or authorized permitting agent, or online.
  • Keep an eye on the weather. Don’t burn on dry, windy days.
  • 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.
  • Household trash should be hauled away to a trash or recycling station. It is illegal to burn anything other than yard debris.
  • Be sure you are fully prepared before burning. To control the fire, you will need a 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 your fire until it is completely out.
  • Burning agricultural residue and forestland litter: In addition to the rules 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.

The USDA Forest Service also reminds campers to be cautious when burning campfires. Use existing fire rings if possible and clear a safe area around them of at least 15 feet. Never leave campfires unattended, and ensure they are completely out before leaving.

The U.S. Forest Service offers the following guidelines for safely extinguishing campfires and helping to prevent wildfires:

  • Allow the wood to burn completely to ash, if possible.
  • Pour lots of water on the fire, drown ALL embers, not just the red ones.
  • Pour until the hissing sound stops.
  • Stir campfire ashes and embers with a shovel.
  • Scrape the sticks and logs to remove any embers.
  • Stir and make sure everything is wet and that embers are cold to the touch.
  • If you do not have water, use dirt. Pour dirt or sand on the fire, mixing enough dirt or sand with the embers to extinguish the fire.
  • Continue adding or stirring until all remaining material is cool.
  • Do NOT bury the fire as the fire will continue to smolder and could catch roots on fire that will eventually get to the surface and start a wildfire.

Always exercise caution with any outdoor burning. Even when burn bans are not in effect, weather conditions may not be favorable for outdoor fires. Outdoor burning is discouraged during periods of low humidity or high winds.

Studies have shown that taking these and other measures can reduce the possibility of wildfires. To learn more about fire safety and preventing wildfires and loss of property, visit N.C. Forest Service and Smokey the Bear.