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State bans open burning to fight fire threat

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RALEIGH, N.C. — 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.



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