Ranger offers wildfire prevention tips

By: By Natalie Davis - ndavis@ansonrecord.com

Fall wildfire season has started and Ranger Gary McLendon, has some tips to help prevent them.

The season typically lasts from mid-October until mid-December, and it is the time of year when people do a lot of yard work that may include burning leaves and yard debris. Forestry officials say these fires sometimes escape and start wildfires; in fact, debris burning is the top cause of wildfires in North Carolina.

“Between October and November of 2016, there were 1,138 wildfires that burned more than 59,511 acres across North Carolina,” N.C. Ag Commissioner Steve Troxler said in a statement. “All of us can do our part to avoid another fall fire season like last year by exercising caution while burning debris.”

The N.C. Forest Service encourages residents considering debris burning to contact their local county forest ranger. The ranger can offer technical advice and explain the best options to help maximize the safety to people, property and the forest.

Officials offer several tips to protect property and prevent wildfires, and insist that residents follow these tips. Beforehand, they should consider alternatives to burning, because 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.

“Some municipalities have leaf pick-up,” McLendon said. “If municipalities have pickup service, yard waste may not be burned. Check with local municipalities for their local laws on open burning, and landowners can use the leaves as mulch or compost material.”

McLendon said that the items that residents can burn include vegetative materials such as leaves, logs, stumps, tree branches, and yard trimmings. Non-vegetative materials, such as household garbage, lumber, or any other synthetic materials, cannot legally be burned.

Check local burning laws, because some communities allow burning only during specified hours, and others forbid it entirely. Citizens should make sure that they have a valid burning permit, and they can be obtained at any Forest Service office or authorized permitting agent.

McLendon said that the permits are free, and can be obtained at several places throughout the county, including:

• the North Carolina Forest Service office

• the Old Store In Lilesville

• Ansonville Town Hall

• H.W Little Hardware

• Polkton Town Hall

• Fast Stop in Burnsville

When considering which days to burn, keep an eye on the weather, and don’t burn on dry, windy days.

“Burning debris in this weather makes it harder to control your fire,” McLendon said.

If you are unsure of safe ways to burn debris, local fire officials can recommend a safe way. 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.

“I would recommend having the area cleared of any burnable material leaves, twigs, grasses,” McLendon said.

Household trash should be hauled away to a trash or recycling station, because it is illegal to burn anything other than yard debris. Be fully prepared before burning. To control the fire, have a hose, bucket, steel rake and a shovel for tossing dirt on the fire, and keep a phone nearby, too. Never use kerosene, gasoline, diesel fuel or other flammable liquids to speed debris burning, and stay with the fire until it is completely out.

Fire officials say these same tips hold true for campfires and charcoal grills, as well. Douse burning charcoal briquettes or campfires thoroughly with water. When soaked, stir the coals and soak them again. Be sure they are out cold and carefully feel to be sure they are extinguished. Never dump hot ashes or coals into a wooded area.

When burning agricultural residue and forestland litter, 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. Before doing any burning in a wooded area, contact McLendon, who will weigh all factors, explain them and offer technical advice.

“These tips can help landowners burn their debris in a safe manner,” McLendon said. “This will help prevent the start of wildfires in the community, saving property and natural resources.”

For more information on ways you can prevent wildfires and loss of property, visit ncforestservice.gov.

Reach Natalie Davis at 704-994-5471.

By Natalie Davis