N.C. Forest Service offers tips to prevent fall wildfires

Published 9:23 pm Monday, October 8, 2012

RALEIGH — As fall wildfire season approaches, the N.C. Forest Service encourages North Carolinians to heed the call of Fire Prevention Week, Oct. 7-13, and take steps to ensure careful burning of leaves and yard debris.

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. These fires sometimes escape and start wildfires.

“Debris burning is the No. 1 cause of wildfires in North Carolina,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “Despite the wet weather, there have been 2,264 wildfires this year that have burned more than 8,500 acres.”

The state Forest Service urges people to follow these 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 burning permit at any Forest Service office or authorized permitting agent, or online at http://ncforestservice.gov.

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 contained in a screened receptacle, away from overhead branches and wires.

Household trash should be hauled away to a 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 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 debris burning.

Stay with your fire until it is completely out.

Studies have shown that following these and other measures can reduce the possibility for wildfires.

Fire Prevention Week was established in the U.S. to commemorate the Great Chicago and Peshtigo fires, which both began on Oct. 8, 1871. The Great Chicago Fire killed more than 250 people, left 100,000 homeless, destroyed more than 17,400 structures and burned more than 2,000 acres.  The Peshtigo Fire in northeastern Wisconsin is considered to be the most devastating forest fire in American history. The fire burned down 16 towns, killed 1,152 people and scorched 1.2 million acres before it ended.