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High Winds, Low Humidity Make State Ripe for Fires

Posted March 5, 2007

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— High winds, dry air and warm temperatures are a combination that creates the potential for explosive wildfires.


A red flag warning is in effect for the Triangle and surrounding areas, meaning high winds and dry conditions could help fuel outdoor fires.

The National Weather Service is warning people in 60 counties across the state who did any burning over the weekend to make sure those fires are out completely.

Meteorologists say winds out of the west could gust to more than 30 miles per hour. In addition to the request to make sure weekend fires are completely out, meteorologists are also asking people not to burn at all Monday to prevent a flare-up.

Several small fires occurred throughout Central North Carolina Monday, including in Raleigh at the split of Capital Boulevard and U.S. 401. That was near the same area where a fire at Pine Knolls Townes Complex, where fire destroyed nearly 30 townhouses and left several families homeless.

About two acres of land were scorched Monday afternoon off Johnston Mill Road in Durham. The state forestry service and fire volunteers helped contain the flames.

And in Johnston County, firefighters are still at the scene monitoring a fire that started last week at Stump Dump Inc. in Clayton.

Brush fires were also reported in Clayton at the intersection of Barber Mill and Big Pine roads and in Raeford in a wooded area near June Johnson and Vass roads. About 120 acres burned there.

There have been more than 1,200 fires across the state this year, burning nearly 5,000 acres. Forestry officials say the state normally sees an average of about 5,000, burning about 20,000 acres a year. Unless the conditions improve, fire officials predict there will be a lot more.

"You have dry windy conditions, and if one spark gets in there, you can have a wildfire," said Samuel Prevatte with the North Carolina Forest Service.

Inside the central operations room at the state Division of Forest Resources, someone is always on standby during fire season. They keep track of fires statewide and monitor where crews and equipment are needed.

"So far, we've had slightly more fires than average,” said Forest Resources spokesman Chris Carlson.

To help reduce the potential for wildfires, the state Division of Forest Resources recommends:

  • Avoiding all outdoors burning of yard debris and trash.
  • Not burning on windy days.
  • Using an ashtray and not tossing lit cigarettes or other burning items from vehicles.
  • Never leaving a campfire unattended and drowning the fire with water and covering it with sand or soil.

Debris burning is the leading cause of wildfires in North Carolina, resulting in 41 percent of the state’s wildfires in the last decade, according to the state Division of Forest Resources. That trend has continued this year as many people have continued burning, despite the dry and windy weather.

"Don't burn, especially when we have these red flag warnings,” Carlson said. “It's a warning not to burn because it can be very dangerous and get away from you very quickly.”

North Carolina Gov. Mike Easley also issued a warning to residents this week to avoid burning yard debris and starting other outside fires.


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  • wenfromwake Mar 5, 2007

    Excellent new title! You did well. Kudos to the staff.

  • 25874245844 Mar 5, 2007

    Hahaha I guess they took our advice!

  • ncfishfinder Mar 5, 2007

    I had to look at it twice to be sure what I was seeing. Pyro's don't need any encouragement from the media.

  • the original Milky Mar 5, 2007

    That title is enough for this dyslexic-pyro. Gotta match?

  • Rocknhorse Mar 5, 2007

    Glad I'm not the only one who had to re-read that title. I thought the same thing! Funny!

  • plcj Mar 5, 2007

    LMBO... I read it the same way. I thought it was just me. Started to think something was wrong with me. LOL

  • 25874245844 Mar 5, 2007

    Haha, I though it said the same thing wenfromwake! I'm about to go outside and start me some fires since it is a perfect day to do so

  • kcfoxie Mar 5, 2007

    all those who said we'd burn in hell, looks like the optimum conditions for that prediction to come true hath presented themselves.

  • anonemoose Mar 5, 2007

    Nothing like encouraging a little pyromania...

  • wenfromwake Mar 5, 2007

    I think you should have picked a better title for this story. Twice I read it and could have sworn it said "....Perfect for Setting Fires." Obviously it doesn't but at first glance that is how I read it. It would have been better to emphasize the negative in this case; to emphasize the danger, a wind warning, or fire warning. The current title at first glance made it sound like it is a good day for me to burn some brush; I don't think we want to encourage that. Maybe you can come up with a better title.