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NC Forest Service and local departments combat wildfires during fall fire season

The Chapel Hill Fire Department on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd is pictured on Oct. 10. Fire Prevention Week is Oct. 9 through Oct. 15. The motto for this year’s week is “Fire won’t wait. Plan your escape™.”

The North Carolina Forest Service announced on Oct. 10 that the fall wildfire season has started in North Carolina and that people should take precautions during recreational burning.

The NCFS works to provide and protect valuable forest resources and runs programs for wildfire prevention and reforestation.

Mark Bost, the NCFS district forester for District 10, which includes Guilford, Forsyth and Yadkin counties, said that when the district checked the soil recently, it was very dry. 

This raised some concerns, he said, especially going into November when leaves start falling off of trees and another layer of fuel is available to burn.

Duane Truslow, the NCFS district forester for District 2, which includes much of northwestern North Carolina, said the district looks like it will have a relatively normal fire season. 

Lemuel Hubbard, a lieutenant for the Raleigh Fire Department and fire education and fire prevention coordinator, said fires often begin through cigarettes or unmaintained fire pits.

Hubbard added people often only think about large wildfires that burn multiple acres.

“Those are wildfires, but we do have smaller wildfires that can easily burn within your community,” he said. 

The best way to combat wildfires is to prep your home for certain things that can cause wildfires, Hubbard said. 

Carl Freeman, interim chief and fire marshal for the Carrboro Fire-Rescue Department, said causes of fires in Carrboro within the last couple of months have included a candle, cigarette and some type of incense not properly extinguished.

People should look at the weather before burning and pick a day with calm winds and ideally after rain to have less of a chance of fires spreading, Truslow said.

“Ninety percent of our fires are caused by debris burns, the biggest thing that citizens can do is to be careful when you’re burning debris,” he added.

Before building a campfire, people should allow around a five-meter radius around the fire spot so that none of the surroundings will catch on fire, Hubbard said. He also said people should clear the space of debris that could burn and put bricks around the campfire.

Hubbard also said people should not put a lot of leaves in the fire and make sure to use well-treated wood.

He added that once the fire is done burning, large amounts of water need to be poured on it and dirt should be put on top of the fire, as well.

“It’s upon us to make sure we are diligent and make sure anytime we have flammable material to make sure to discard it properly,” Hubbard said.  

NCFS instructs people to mix the embers with dirt until it is extinguished if no water is available, but warns not to bury the fire as this could ignite roots and start a wildfire.

NCFS also said a valid burn permit is important for recreational burning on state and federal land. 

When NCFS is not fighting fires, it is working with private landowners to help them manage their forests sustainably, Bost said. 

“We’re helping them plan harvests, plan reforestation, making sure that if they do harvest timber that they have good seedlings to replant,” Bost said.

The NCFS is legislatively mandated to conduct logging inspections on timber harvesting operations to make sure these operations are environmentally safe, he added.

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The organization also has many education programs for volunteer firemen and schools, Bost said. 

“We talk to kids about all different kinds of things: the importance of trees and tree identification, and action, water quality and wildlife management," he said.

@DTHCityState |