Apex, N.C. — North Carolina is on course to have the worst wildfire season in more than 10 years, and the season has not even officially started.
The dry conditions are causing pine needles and tree leaves to drop early, and officials with the state Division of Forest Resources said that is fueling wildfires.
The wildfire season officially begins at the end of September. In August, there were already more than 700 wildfires, nearly 10 times the number of wildfires reported this time last year.
"It is just really dangerous right now. You got to really think about that you could be endangering people's lives and homes," said Brian Haines, public information officer with the Division of Forest Resources.
This year, more than 5,300 fires have burned more than 30,000 acres across the state.
A statewide ban on burning is in effect indefinitely, and violators will be fined. So far this summer, the state has issued 48 citations.
Two teenagers are accused of starting a wildfire in Pender County in April. Nearly 700 acres were burned.
Robeson County has seen more than 100 wildfires. Officials said people burning yard debris caused many of those fires.
Conditions are so dry, a spark from a street sweeper that lost its wheel caused a fire on the side of the road on Wednesday.
On Smokewood Drive in Apex, charred grass was all that was left of a backyard wildfire. Fortunately, the flames were put out before any real damage was done.
David Woodruff, 16, was arrested for starting that fire. While his father did not want to press charges, Apex police said the dry conditions and burn ban made it too serious to overlook.
"We haven't even gotten into the fall fire season yet, and already, we're way above even what the 10-year average of fires is," said Haines.