Forest Service Urges Extreme Caution With Fire This Weekend

Careless debris burning is the leading cause of wildfires in North Carolina

The N.C. Forest Service urges everyone to be cautious with fire over the holiday weekend. The lack of rainfall in most areas has increased the probability of wildfires, especially within the eastern portion of the state. The U.S. Drought Monitor lists 21 counties in southeast North Carolina as abnormally dry.

“There are several things to consider before burning debris or lighting a campfire,” cautions Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “Some tips to remember are to always check the weather prior to burning. Follow all state and local regulations. Ensure any fires are an adequate safe distance from other flammable material, especially wooded areas and flammable material that may lead to houses. With all fires, maintain a constant watch until the debris pile or campfire is completely out.”

Careless debris burning is the leading cause of wildfires in North Carolina. Landowners with electric fences should also be aware that dry, high grass is susceptible to catching fire from even the smallest of sparks. A grass fire can quickly consume a barn or home and spread to wooded areas.

The N.C. Forest Service urges people to follow these tips to protect property and prevent wildfires:

  • Consider alternatives to burning. 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.
  • Check local burning laws. Some communities allow burning only during specified hours. Others forbid it entirely.
  • Make sure you have a valid permit. You can obtain a burning permit at any N.C. Forest Service office or authorized permitting agent, or online at
  • Be sure you are fully prepared before burning. To control the fire, you will need a hose, bucket, steel rake and a shovel for tossing dirt on the fire. Keep a phone nearby, too.
  • Never use kerosene, gasoline, diesel fuel or other flammable liquids to speed debris burning.
  • Stay with your fire until it is completely out.
  • Keep an eye on the weather. Don’t burn on dry, windy days.
  • 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.
  • Household trash should be hauled away to a trash or recycling station. It is illegal to burn anything other than yard debris.
  • These same tips hold true for campfires and barbeques 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.
  • Burning agricultural 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.

Studies have shown that taking these and other measures can reduce the possibility of wildfires.