RALEIGH, N.C. (WECT) – Due to increased fire risk, the N.C. Forest Service has issued a ban on all open burning and has canceled all burning permits for 26 counties in North Carolina including Bladen, Brunswick, Columbus, New Hanover and Pender.
The burning ban goes into effect at noon Monday, May 24, and will remain in effect until further notice.
“Our state is getting drier and hotter, and wildfires like those conditions,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “These conditions coming during spring wildfire season when wildfire activity and fire risks are already elevated, make this burn ban necessary to protect life and property in North Carolina.”
“We haven’t seen them this dry in a very very long time,” said Mike Malcolm with N.C. Forest Service. “It’s almost historic fuel conditions.”
By fuel conditions, Malcolm is referring to the natural makeup of the soil– perfect material for brush fires.
“We’ve got a lot of peat moss-type vegetation,” said Brunswick County Fire Marshal Andrew Thompson. “It’s real susceptible. Once a fire gets going, it’s real hard to put out.”
That’s something firefighters in Brunswick County have dealt with a lot lately.
“Over the last week or so, we’ve had 11 wood fires here in the county and 15 brush fires,” said Thompson. “That is above average for us for this time of year.”
Bone dry ground, plants and trees coupled with a lower water supply is why counties throughout North Carolina have put burn bans in place. To make matters worse, these kinds of conditions can rekindle a fire that appears to be out. Malcolm says that was a concern with Monday’s ground fire in Hampstead.
“The fuels that did not burn in the initial fire, they will dry out and become even more available,” said Malcolm. “As they fall onto the ground and things like that, that surface fire that’s below the ground and those organic soils are going to cause the fire to reburn.”
Under North Carolina law, the ban prohibits all open burning in the affected counties, regardless of whether a permit was previously issued. The issuance of any new permits has also been suspended until the ban is lifted. Anyone violating the burn ban faces a $100 fine plus $183 court costs. Any person responsible for setting a fire may be liable for any expenses related to extinguishing the fire.
As for planning your holiday weekend, Thompson says it’s best to be mindful of the burn ban. While you can’t shoot fireworks while the ban is in effect, grilling on charcoal or gas fires is not included in the ban.
“Some recommendations that we give out are keeping any gas or charcoal grills about 100 feet away from any combustible construction, going through and keeping an eye on the grill and not walking away from it once they’ve lit the grill,” said Thompson.
Local fire departments and law enforcement officers are assisting N.C. Forest Service in enforcing the burn ban.
N.C. Forest Service will continue to monitor conditions. Residents with questions regarding a specific county can contact their N.C. Forest Service county ranger or their county fire marshal’s office.
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