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High Winds, Low Humidity Make State Ripe for Fires

Parts of central and eastern North Carolina are under a red flag warning, meaning conditions are perfect for outdoor fires.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — 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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