Abide by the ban

Published 12:27 am Friday, June 24, 2011

The dense, gray air blanketing eastern North Carolina can be attributed to wildfires burning in the vicinity.

The 70-square-mile Pains Bay Fire on the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge and the Dare County bombing range has burned for more than 50 days. The fire is 95-percent contained and containment lines have held for over two weeks, but the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources indicates that “ground fire intensity in the interior sections is increasing as peat continues to dry from lack of rainfall.”

Another large wildfire is now consuming 4,800 acres in Pender County with zero percent containment. Smoke from that fire also is affecting most of eastern North Carolina.

Air quality in the area has deteriorated to the point that DENR issued a “code orange” alert for Beaufort, Pitt, Tyrrell, Hyde, Martin and Greene counties this week — an indication that the concentration of fine particulates in the air “may approach or exceed unhealthy standards.”

DENR Secretary Dee Freeman also banned open burning and canceled all burning permits for 27 counties, including areas south of U.S. Highway 64 and east of Interstate 95. By North Carolina law, the ban prohibits all open burning in these areas, regardless of whether a permit was issued. It also means all burning is prohibited if it is 100 feet or more from a home or residence that someone lives in. Open burning includes burning leaves, branches and other plant material. In all cases, it is illegal to burn trash, lumber, tires, newspapers, plastics or other nonvegetative materials.

All of these actions were crucial because current drought conditions have made us more vulnerable to fires.

Until Mother Nature comes to the rescue with some much-needed precipitation, it is imperative that we do our part to prevent wildfires by adhering to the open-burning ban.