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Arson Awareness Week: Second-leading cause of wildfires

RALEIGH – Arson is the second-leading cause of wildfires in North Carolina over the past 10 years, the N.C. Forest Service says.

From 2005 through 2014, North Carolina had 45,609 wildfires, of which 8,461, or 19 percent, were intentionally started. Arson trails only careless debris burning among the causes of wildland fires in the state.

And with North Carolina ranking No. 1 nationally in the amount of land that falls within wildland urban interface zones, the risk to homes and other buildings is high. These zones are areas where buildings and other human development meet or intermingle with undeveloped wildland, forest or vegetation.

“Because of the proximity of development to wildlands, the Forest Service estimates that as much as 41 percent of homes in the state are at risk from wildfires,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “When you combine that fact with the crime of arson, it highlights the need to set up fire-adapted communities to protect vulnerable areas.”

To learn more about becoming a fire-adapted community, or ways you can protect your home from a wildfire, visit the N.C. Firewise program at http://www.ncfirewise.org/index.htm or contact your local N.C. Forest Service county ranger. Contact information and other fire prevention tips are available at ncforestservice.gov.

The arson statistics are particularly pertinent now because it’s Arson Awareness Week. The Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Fire Administration and its partners are using May 1-7 to focus attention on wildfire arson, particularly in the wildland urban interface.

The National Association of State Foresters says more than 72,000 U.S. communities are now at risk from wildfire within the wildland urban interface.

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