Commissioner Steve Troxler: Wildfire Risk Remains High in North Carolina

North Carolina’s wildfire risk remains high despite some recent rainfall in the state. Caution is urged with any outdoor burning to reduce the chance of starting wildfires.

  • The fall season and its cooler weather puts many people in the mood to build outdoor fires and to burn yard debris from summer plantings.
  • But the ongoing dry conditions across the state mean you need to take extra care with any outdoor burning.
  • While we have had some recent rains in North Carolina, an unseasonably warm October with highs in the 80s means moisture from those rains could quickly dry out, leaving dry forest fuels.
  • And, dry forest fuels mean an increased risk for wildfires.
  • It’s easy to forget how quickly the moisture from a small rain shower may dissipate in warm and windy weather. That leaves us with a false sense that since we’ve had rains, there is no wildfire risk.
  • It’s always a good rule of thumb to check weather conditions prior to burning. Outdoor burning is discouraged during periods of low humidity or high winds, even when no burn bans are in effect.
  • Many folks may remember the Party Rock Fire, one of the more significant fires from the 2016 wildfire season. The fire ultimately burned 7,000 acres in and around Lake Lure, Chimney Rock and Bat Cave. A teenager was ultimately convicted on starting the fire with a discarded cigarette. It goes to show the devastation that can happen with dry conditions and a small spark.
  • Use existing fire rings at campsites and be sure to have a clear, 15-foot safe area around the fire ring or a backyard fire pit. Never leave a fire unattended and make sure it is completely out before leaving.
  • Pay attention to state and local regulations regarding burning, and make sure you have a valid burn permit if required.
  • Make sure you have a hose, bucket, shovel and phone nearby when you have a fire burning.
  • Used seasoned firewood for fuel and do not use flammable liquids to start fires.
  • Be extra careful with ashes or coals from wood-burning stoves, fireplaces or pellet stoves. It’s a good idea to put the ashes in a metal or steel bucket to remove, then mix them with water to be sure they are completely out and cold.
  • Never put hot coals in areas with potential sources of fuel, such as the edge of wooded areas or landscaped or mulched beds.
  • In dry conditions, it doesn’t take much to spark a wildfire, which can quickly get out of control. Taking a few extra precautions when burning can help prevent bigger problems.