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Last week’s storm felled trees and branches across the Piedmont. The N.C. Forest Service encourages homeowners and others who prune trees or burn yard debris to use caution and follow some basic steps.
Although trees may look severely damaged, restorative pruning and care may increase the chances of them regaining their original health and beauty. If the basic structure of the trees is intact, it may be possible to save the tree. Tree topping is not a viable solution to storm-damage recovery or prevention. The sprouts that occur after topping are fast-growing, weakly attached branches that are more likely to break off in a future storm.
If you are concerned about the health of your trees, contact a certified arborist to assess tree health and structural integrity. Most tree work should be done only by those trained and equipped to work safely in and around trees. Arborists are knowledgeable about the needs of trees and are trained and equipped to provide proper care.
People who do their own cleanup after a storm should work with a partner, particularly when operating equipment such as chain saws. If you are not familiar with chain saws, consult a professional. If you must use a chain saw, adhere to the following guidelines:
• Before any work begins, survey the site for hazards, such as downed electrical wires, leaning trees or broken limbs hanging in the canopy.
• If electrical wires are an issue, do not attempt the tree work. Contact the utility company and let its crew remove the electrical wires.
• Work only on the ground and always wear a hard hat, eye protection, chain-saw chaps and appropriate footwear.
• Keep both hands on the chain saw’s handles at all times.
• Use caution when cutting with the tip of the chain saw to avoid kickback.
• Cut at waist level or below.
• Beware of trees and limbs under pressure. Trees on top of each other or trees that have twisted when falling can be under enormous pressure. Sudden release of this pressure with a chain saw or other tool can cause injury or even death.
• When you begin to get tired, stop sawing and let someone else take over, or wait until the next day to continue.
• If you choose to hire a local tree company, most will note their professional affiliation in their advertisement. To learn more about certified arborists in your area, visit The International Society of Arboriculture at www.treesaregood.com, the American Society of Consulting Arborists at www.asca-consultants.org, or the Tree Care Industry Association at www.treecareindustry.org.
You can get more information and advice on proper tree care and tree assessment following a storm by visiting http://ncforestservice.gov/Urban/urban_stormprepandresponse.htm or http://ncforestservice.gov/Managing_your_forest/damage_recovery.htm.
There are many factors to consider before burning any debris, especially due to the upcoming spring fire season, which typically lasts from mid-March until mid-May. Forest rangers can offer technical advice and explain the best options to help maximize the safety to people, property and the forest.
For people who choose to burn debris, the N.C. Forest Service advises adhering to the following tips to protect property and prevent wildfires:
• Get a burning permit at any N.C. Forest Service office, a county-approved burning permit agent or online at http://ncforestservice.gov.
• Check with your county fire marshal’s office for local laws on burning debris. Some communities allow burning only during specified hours; others forbid it entirely.
• Check the weather. Don’t burn if conditions are dry or windy.
• Consider alternatives to burning. Some yard debris such as leaves and grass may be more valuable if composted.
• Burn only natural vegetation. Burning household trash or any other man-made materials is illegal. Trash should be hauled away to a convenience center.
• Plan burning for the late afternoon when conditions are typically less windy and more humid.
• If you must burn, be prepared. Use a shovel or hoe to clear a perimeter around the area around where you plan to burn.
• Keep fire tools ready. To control the fire, you will need a hose, bucket, a steel rake and a shovel for tossing dirt on the fire. If the fire gets out of control, call 911.
• Never use flammable liquids such as kerosene, gasoline or diesel fuel to speed debris burning.
• Stay with your fire until it is completely out. In North Carolina, human carelessness leads to more wildfires than any other cause. In fact, debris burning is the No. 1 cause of wildfires in the state.
• Burning agriculture 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.
• Before doing any burning in a wooded area, contact your county ranger, who will weigh all factors, explain them and offer technical advice. Rangers also can answer questions about damage recovery and other types of burning.

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