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Be cautious during spring fire season, now through May

The N.C. Forest Service is urging residents across the state to think about safety and exercise caution during the spring fire season, which typically lasts from March to May.

“During the spring fire season, people do a lot of yard work that often includes burning leaves and yard debris,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “There are many factors to consider before doing any burning.”

Anyone who wants to burn debris outside should contact a county ranger for advice first, Troxler said. “The ranger can help maximize safety for people, property and the forest.”

The Forest Service offers these guidelines to reduce the risk of wildfires:

  • Consider alternatives to burning. Some yard debris, such as leaves and grass, may be more valuable if composted.
  • Check with your county fire marshal’s office about local laws on burning debris. Some communities allow burning only during specified hours; others forbid it entirely.
  • Make sure you have an approved burning permit, which can be obtained at any Forest Service office, from a county-approved burning permit agent, or online at http://ncforestservice.gov.
  • Check the weather. Don’t burn if conditions are dry or windy.
  • Burn only natural vegetation from your property. Burning household trash or any other man-made materials is illegal. Trash should be hauled away.
  • Plan burning for the late afternoon when conditions are typically less windy and more humid.
  • Use a shovel or hoe to clear a perimeter around the area 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.
  • Never use flammable liquids such as kerosene, gasoline or diesel fuel to speed burning.
  • Stay with your fire until it is completely out. In North Carolina, human carelessness leads to more wildfires than any other cause. Debris burning is the No. 1 cause of wildfires in the state.
  • These same tips hold true for campfires and barbecues, too. Douse burning charcoal briquettes or campfires thoroughly with water. When the coals are soaked, stir them 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 in a wooded area.
  • For burning agriculture residue and forestland litter, there are additional guidelines. 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 any burning in a wooded area, contact the county ranger, who will weigh all factors and offer technical advice.

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

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