NC Forest Service urges caution when burning debris

Published 3:09 pm Thursday, March 3, 2022

RALEIGH — With spring fire season upon us, the N.C. Forest Service is asking residents to prioritize safety and practice caution when burning debris. Escaped fires from burning debris continue to be the leading cause of wildfires in North Carolina. Peak months for the spring fire season run from March through May and fires left unattended can get out of hand quickly and become wildfires.

“Be sure to consider any and all factors when choosing to burn natural vegetation in your yard, especially on dry, windy days,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “Contact your local county ranger for tips on the safest way to burn and make sure you have a valid burn permit. You are the best defense against wildfires.”

Spring weather in North Carolina draws people outdoors to work in their yards and dispose of leaves and other yard debris by way of burning. For those who choose to burn, the N.C. Forest Service is offering the following tips:

  • 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 burn permit at any N.C. Forest Service office or authorized permitting agent, or online at https://www.ncforestservice.gov/burn_permits/burn_permits_main.htm.
  • 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 contain it in a screened receptacle away from overhead branches and wires.
  • Household trash must be hauled away to a trash or recycling station. It is illegal to burn anything other than natural vegetation.
  • Be sure you are fully prepared before burning. To control the fire, you will need a hose, bucket, steel rake 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 up debris burning.
  • Stay with your fire until it is completely out.
  • These same tips apply to campfires and grills as well. Douse burning charcoal briquettes or campfires thoroughly with water. Drown all embers, not just the red ones. When soaked, stir the coals and soak them again. Make sure everything is wet and that embers are cold to the touch. If you do not have water, mix enough dirt or sand with the embers to extinguish the fire, being careful not to bury the fire. Never dump hot ashes or coals into a wooded area.
  • When burning agricultural residue and forestland litter: In addition to the rules above, a fire line should be plowed around the area to be burned. Large fields should be separated into small plots for burning one at a time. Prior to any burning in a wooded area, contact your NCFS county ranger for technical advice on burning.

The public is reminded to keep drones away from wildfires. While drones provide unique opportunities for aerial video and imagery of wildfire activity, they are unauthorized. Flying a drone near or around a wildfire compromises the safety of N.C. Forest Service pilots and interferes with firefighting efforts. Individuals in violation of this law will be subject to civil penalties, fines and criminal prosecution.