By Michael Praats | May 25, 2021 at 12:26 PM EDT – Updated May 25 at 7:42 PM
WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) – The summer heat is here in the Cape Fear region, and along with it, a dry spell that has fire officials nervous — nervous enough to implement a burn ban in 26 different counties in the state. On Tuesday, New Hanover County’s Deputy Fire Chief Frank Meyer and Wilmington Fire Chief Buddy Martinette explained why the ban is in place, and how folks can prevent fires in the first place.
Burn bans are common in our area, and in the city limits, a burn ban is technically always in place, while in the county, burning is generally permitted. With the holiday weekend coming up, many people are preparing for fun in the sun which often ends with backyard barbecues.
“The county burn ban does allow for cooking fires, gas grills, charcoal grills, and again, to echo Chief Martinette, we can’t overstate the importance of properly discarding the charcoal,” Meyer said.
So while cooking your burgers and hotdogs on a grill is permitted, there are safety precautions to take, like disposing of charcoal in a metal container or making sure that they are fully extinguished on the grill — one spark could set grass or other vegetation on fire that could lead to even more destruction.
“In the last three weeks, the National Weather Service in Wilmington reports we’ve only seen 3/4 of an inch of rain. The lack of precipitation plus the warm temperatures contribute to an increased risk for fire ignition and rapid spread,” according to the Wilmington Fire Department.
There’s already been an increase in the number of forest fires across the state.
“Last year, we had about 2,300 wildfires across the state, and this year, we’ve already exceeded that number by more than 200 wildfires,” said David Lane, state forester with the NC Forest Service.
As far as what it will take for the ban to be lifted, that’s going to be up to the N.C. Forest Service, but Meyer said it will take significant rainfall, not the light showers we have seen over the past day or so.
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