Take care during spring fire season

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The spring fire season has arrived, and federal officials are asking visitors to the national forests and neighbors to help prevent the next wildfire. The USDA Forest Service (USFS) National Forests in North Carolina urges residents throughout the state to keep safety in mind and exercise caution during the spring fire season that typically lasts until late April to mid-May.
Nine out of 10 wildfires in North Carolina are started by humans. Residents and visitors to the state are urged to be extremely careful during this time period that is often characterized by dry and/or windy conditions.
In the spring, people do a lot of yard work that often includes burning leaves and yard debris. In North Carolina, more than 40 percent of all wildfires are caused by careless debris burning — the number one cause of wildfires in the state. Private landowners who cause wildfires may be liable for fire suppression costs on state and national forest land if a fire originates on their property.
For people who choose to burn debris, the N.C. Forest Service offers the following tips to protect property and prevent wildfires:
• Always consider alternatives to burning.
• Obtain a burning permit at an NCFS office or online at http://ncforestservice.gov/burn_permits/burn_permits_main.htm
• Check the weather — don’t burn on dry, windy days.
• Know your local burning laws.
• Be prepared with water, a shovel and phone.
• Stay with your fire until it is completely out.
Studies have shown that taking these and other measures can greatly reduce wildfires and the loss of property associated with them. Also, take time now to prepare your home against wildfires. Tips on protecting your property can be found at www.firewise.org.
Additionally, campfires can be a source of wildfires. Follow these guidelines to help prevent wildfires:
• Allow the wood to burn completely to ash, if possible.
• Pour lots of water on the fire, drown ALL embers, not just the red ones.
• Pour until hissing sound stops.
• Stir the campfire ashes and embers with a shovel.
• Scrape the sticks and logs to remove any embers.
• Stir and make sure everything is wet and they are cold to the touch.
• If you do not have water, use dirt. Mix enough dirt or sand with the embers.
Continue adding and stirring until all material is cool. Remember: do NOT bury the fire as the fire will continue to smolder and could catch roots on fire that will eventually get to the surface and start a wildfire.
Learn more about fire safety at www.smokeybear.com. Remember….only YOU can prevent wildfires.