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State bans open burning to fight fire threat

Posted August 21, 2007
Updated April 30, 2008

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— The state Division of Forest Resources has initiated a statewide ban on all open burning and canceled all burning permits, officials announced Tuesday. The ban is in effect until further notice. Open burning means a fire 100 feet or more from an occupied dwelling, officials said.

The ban came as state Division of Air Quality officials have been trying to educate the public and local officials that burning anything other than yard waste has long been illegal in North Carolina.

Dry weather conditions and an increase in fire activity statewide made the ban necessary, Forest Resources said.

More than 100 firefighters are battling 130 wildfires in Robeson County alone. Monday, officials counted 46 new wildfires affecting more than 370 acres across North Carolina.

Fire officials have cited out-of-control open burning as the cause of some wildfires.

Local law enforcement agents, county fire marshals and the N.C. Division of Forest Resources will enforce the ban, the state said. Some counties have burning bans of their own.

To help reduce the fire danger, the state Division of Air Quality has been trying to teach people that trash fires are just plain illegal.

"If it does not grow on your property, it is illegal to burn it," is the summary that Steven Vozzo uses to explain to people the state's longstanding rules for open burning. Vozzo is regional air quality supervisor in the Department of Environment and Natural Resources' Fayetteville regional office.

What's more, people who have yard-waste collection provided to them cannot burn yard waste, either, added Don Burke, an environmental specialist in the Fayetteville office.

If Air Quality pursued penalties against a repeat violator, the fine could get as high as $10,000, but, "Usually, it's an educational project," Burke said.

That includes teaching local law enforcement and other state agencies what the rules are so they can spread the word.

"The fire departments have a pretty good grasp on this," Burke said, so Air Quality talks to other officials who may see burning and can alert residents.

Other rules apply to allowed burning of natural material, Burke noted. Fires can only be set and fed between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m., and tree limbs bigger than 6 inches in diameter are considered logs and have to be disposed of separately.

14 Comments

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  • 68_polara Aug 21, 2007

    Thanks beach boater.

  • anonemoose Aug 21, 2007

    Can anybody give me the statute numbers for the burning of trash? Around here, everybody burns their garbage.

  • beachboater Aug 21, 2007

    68 Polara- A tree trunk probably grew on your property, hence, it is ok to burn it. In my area the law is enforced. I'm a volunteer firefighter and we constantly get woods / grass fires that are started by burning household garbage in a barrel. The forrestry service is called out on all grass and woods fires. They take responsibility for the fire when they arrive. They also write either warning tickets or actual tickets depending on the situation. They are NOT cheap. If a fire leaves your yard and goes to a neighbors yard, it's worse.

    People have been getting by with a lot over the years. I think things are tightening up some lately. If air quality ever gets involved, it will be really bad for the violators.

  • jasonicholas Aug 21, 2007

    Playing devils advocate: your cars are moving combustion machines, meaning they are constantly "sparking" with gasoline. So just know YOU could start a fire at any time going down the road, smoking or not.

  • 68_polara Aug 21, 2007

    I think we'll only see more of this, have you noticed how so many new cars don't have ashtrays any more? When these cars hit the used car market smokers will buy them anyhow because the decision as to whether or not to buy a used vehicle centers much more around value, condition, and dependably than if it has an ashtray or not.

  • Greyhound_Girl Aug 21, 2007

    People need to stop flicking their cigarette butts out of their windows too. - gilligat

    Amen!!!

  • zodad Aug 21, 2007

    Well it is about time! It took DENR, Air Quality and Forest Services and the environmental resources folks long enough to wake up and stop the open burning....There are folks still burning all manner of waste around this state on a regular basis.

  • jasonicholas Aug 21, 2007

    I wonder if these types of rules/restrictions are ever actually enforced? Not in my area, not supposed to be any outside burning w/in city limits at all, but always smell the leaves/debris burning...

  • Deep thoughts Aug 21, 2007

    I love a good campfire just as much as the next guy but right now they are a just forest fire waiting to happen. People need to stop flicking their cigarette butts out of their windows too. There should be a ban on burning anything right now, no acceptions. My property was set on fire last year by kids and fireworks. Thank God the fire was close to a pond and the breeze was light. Thirty minutes and hundreds of buckets later the fire was out. I shudder to think what would have happened if the fire had spread into the woods. Everyone was born with common sense, some just don't use it.

  • All child molesters should die Aug 21, 2007

    Steve Crisp brings up an excellent point.

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