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Forest Rangers Fight Fires Before They Flame

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FAYETTEVILLE — The hot, dry weather has parched the ground and made it highly combustible. A simple spark could ignite a furious fire, so forest rangers are warning everyone to use caution now, before it's too late.

TheDivision of Forestryhas scout planes in the air to search out flames on the ground before they spread out of control.

State Forest Ranger Joe Johnson has worked in Cumberland County for more than 25 years. He says the conditions are as bad as he's ever seen.

"We've been plagued with low humidity, dry weather, and unusually high winds for this time of year," Johnson says.

Dry grass and brush are fuel for any type of spark. In these conditions, Johnson says, flames can spread up to six feet per minute and smolder for hours.

More than 116 acres in Cumberland County burned Monday during the county's third large woods fire this week.

Across the state, there are similar signs of rain starvation.A fire in Chatham County last weekspread quickly, destroying a boat, tractor, and barns.

"This is shaping up to be a very unusual summer and unless we get some rainfall we're going to get more problems than we already have," Johnson says.

The state has not banned controlled burns, but forest rangers are warning people to be extra careful.

Johnson suggests burning when the wind is low, or when there is not much wind at all. "Try to use a backing fire as much as possible, and be sure there's a good line around it before you start a fire."