Officials Urge Caution as Spring Fire Season Starts

Smoke from the Pulp Road fire in the Green Swamp can be seen for miles. (Courtesy Katie Boyd)
Small, debris fires can quickly become large wildfires without proper safety precautions.

March will officially cue the start of spring wildfire season in North Carolina, and the N.C. Forest Service is urging residents to use caution with all outdoor fires, especially yard debris burns.

The Forest Service responded to more than 5,300 wildfires across North Carolina in 2023, with escaped debris burns as the leading cause.

“Last year, 99 percent of wildfires in our state were directly related to human activity,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “This means that most of our wildfires could have been prevented. Before choosing to burn yard debris, make sure you have a valid burn permit, check the weather and avoid burning on dry, windy days. You are the first line of defense when it comes to preventing wildfires.”

Spring weather tends to draw people outdoors to work in their yards and many choose burning as a method to dispose of leaves, limbs and other yard debris.

“During the spring season, fires can spread quickly,” said State Forester David Lane. “Your county ranger is a resource and can provide guidance about when, where and how to burn safely outdoors. Contact your local NCFS county ranger’s office before starting an outdoor fire.”

The  Forest Service also offers the following tips:

  • 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 burn permit at any  Forest Service office or authorized permitting agent, or online at ncforestservice.gov/burnpermit.
  • Keep an eye on the weather. Don’t burn on dry, windy days.
  • Local fire officials can recommend a safe way to burn debris. 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.
  • 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 up debris burning.
  • Stay with your fire until it is completely out.

To learn more about fire safety and preventing wildfires and loss of property, refer to Fire Safety Outdoors. For information about creating defensible space and a fire-resistant landscape around your home and property, visit www.resistwildfirenc.org. Contact information for county rangers with the N.C. Forest Service is available online at www.ncforestservice.gov/contacts.

About Jefferson Weaver 1973 Articles
Jefferson Weaver is the Managing Editor of Columbus County News and he can be reached at (910) 914-6056, (910) 632-4965, or by email at [email protected].