Local News

Downed Trees Fuel Fears of Fires

Posted January 20, 1997 12:00 a.m. EST

— North Carolina's hurricane-damaged forests are beginning to dry. As they dry, the danger of forest fires increases dramatically. State forestry officials say all of the downed trees provide tons of potential fuel and create what amounts to a giant tinderbox. If weather continues to dry out the wood, they say, it could be an extremely busy forest fire season.

Bob Slocum with the N.C. Forestry Association surveyed the situation from WRAL TV5's Sky 5 helicopter. Says what he sees in the woods is pretty impressive.

The buildup of flammable substance means the forestry service will have to be prepared for an extremely busy fire season. Last year, N.C. had 5,000 forest fires in what Slocum says was considered a mild year.

Slocum says more equipment is badly needed. In the next few weeks, Slocum says the forestry service will be making a pitch to the State General Assembly for money to address the problem before the forests ignite.

In the meantime, officials will start cleaning up some of the debris in area parks. A Louisiana firm plans to start work clearing state parks within a week. The Army Corps of Engineers says the entire job should take about three months.