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Luminarias coming under fire

Posted December 8, 2007
Updated November 18, 2008

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— State forestry officials said a ban on open burning covers luminarias, and local officials have discouraged use of the popular holiday decorations.

On Oct. 15, the North Carolina Division of Forest Resources banned lighting any open flames more than 100 feet away from an occupied building. That includes placing luminarias that far away from houses, too, forestry officials said Friday.

Local fire marshals must decide whether it is legal to burn luminarias within 100 feet of an occupied dwelling.

The Raleigh Fire Marshal's Office did not issue an outright ban on them but strongly discouraged their use.

To create luminarias, lighted candles are placed inside paper bags.

"Although [luminarias] are an important tradition for many, due to the unusually dry conditions, using [them] would be especially dangerous this year," Assistant Chief Tommie A. Styons said in a release. "It is not uncommon under normal circumstances for the fire department to respond to sporadic fires caused by unattended [luminarias]."

Dry, drought conditions necessitated the open-burning ban, forestry officials said.

So far this year, North Carolina has seen 6,590 wildfires burn 36,071 acres – a third above the average number of fires annually and more than 80 percent above the average number of acres burned each year.

"The extreme drought we are experiencing would make this situation considerably more dangerous," Styons said. "We are asking for the public's cooperation in preventing any unnecessary risk for our community."


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