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After fiery weekend, Easley reinstates burn ban statewide

Gov. Mike Easley is reinstating the statewide burning ban, effective at noon Thursday, due to drought and the upcoming spring fire season.

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RALEIGH, N.C. — Gov. Mike Easley is reinstating a statewide burning ban, effective at noon Thursday, due to drought and the upcoming spring fire season.

“I know the burn ban is an imposition and creates hardship, but we have no choice until conditions improve,” Easley said. “It is just not safe to burn because of the drought conditions and strong winds that will cause fire to spread quickly.”

The state had imposed a burn ban in August, then lifted it Jan. 2. The state Division of Forest Resources said at the time, "Recent rains across the state, while not ending the drought, are sufficient to make carefully tended open burning safe to reduce the amount of dry forest debris and cut the potential for larger, more intense and harder-to-control fires later in the year, especially during the spring fire season."

The drought, which has caused trees and other vegetation to be especially dry and has reduced water supplies that firefighters depend on for emergencies, means the state faces an increased possibility of dangerous wildfires this spring.

A state burn ban applies to open burning more than 100 feet from occupied dwellings. The area within 100 feet is under the control of local officials.

Easley also signed an agreement with the Federal Emergency Management Agency that enables the state to seek federal assistance to help pay costs incurred while fighting major fires. Easley said it is a pro-active step to get federal assistance in the event the state has an active fire season this spring.

“North Carolina has a strong emergency response system with dedicated firefighters and other personnel who are ready, but if we face a substantial fire that threatens lives and critical facilities, we can ask FEMA for funding assistance,” Easley said. “This agreement fast-tracks that paperwork process.”

FEMA’s Fire Management Assistance Grant Program provides federal money to cover 75 percent of the eligible costs incurred while fighting fires once a spending threshold has been met. To be eligible for the assistance, firefighting costs must be more than $491,000 for individual fires and $1.47 million for multiple fires.

Expenses for assistance include:

  • Fire equipment and supplies
  • Pre-positioning out-of-state, federal or international resources to help fight fires
  • Emergency operations such as evacuation and sheltering, police barricading and traffic control

Because of the ongoing drought and increased potential for wildfires, this is the first time North Carolina has participated in the FEMA fire grant program. It is regularly used by states, such as those in the western part of the United States, where wildfires are more common.



Ron Gallagher, Web Editor

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