Burning ban hurts a holiday tradition

Published 6:22 pm Tuesday, December 18, 2007

By Staff
Mother Nature has forced fire officials to take on the role of the Grinch that stole Christmas.
In October, extremely dry conditions forced state forestry officials to institute a ban on open burning beyond 100 feet from an occupied dwelling. As of Dec. 3, Beaufort County officials took it a step farther and included the area within 100 feet of a house. The result is all open flames, with the exception of cooking grills and fires in containers with lids on them are off limits. Anyone caught violating the ban may be fined $100.
Luminaria, sometimes referred to as luminaries or farolitos, are a Christmas tradition that signify Mary and Joseph’s search for a place to stay in Bethlehem. The Spanish tradition started in the 16th century with the lighting of bonfires along roads and churchyards to guide people to midnight Mass. The tradition has since made its way to the United States.
Those seeking to find the manger may need to use a flashlight.
Rose is taking a stand adopted by other fire officials.
Not only is the public unhappy, Zorc has an even higher authority to answer to — his wife.
Zorc said his wife usually puts a few of the bags with candles along the driveway at his family’s house for the family’s annual holiday gathering.
Nags Head won’t, however, patrol for luminaria lawbreakers.
The fire marshal for Camden and Pasquotank counties and the city of Elizabeth City is also dousing the tradition of burning candles inside paper bags anchored with sand.
In Shelby, the ban put an end to a tradition of candles in the downtown area. In Shelby’s case, the candles are part of a fundraiser that pays for other Christmas lights downtown. The event raises between $800 and $1,000 for the fund each year.
We don’t fault fire officials for implementing the ban. It’s their job to protect us, even if it means protecting us when we don’t want to be protected. The state has had more than 6,590 wildfires this year that blackened 36,000 acres. Despite the burning ban, there have been 94 fires that have burned 698 acres since Dec. 1.
There is at least one option when it comes to replacing luminaria. Some fire officials suggest using battery-operated candles this year. Those don’t pose a fire hazard. Although more costly than a regular candle, they could produce the desired effect. In the end, while we hate to see the holiday without luminaria, the ultimate authority on Christmas can still see the light of Christmas burning in our hearts.