Preventing fires as North Carolina’s fall wildfire season gets underway

North Carolina news

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Fall foliage is a beautiful backdrop to the season in North Carolina, but once those leaves hit the ground, they create fuel for wildfires.

Cabe Speary, the Fire Environment Forester for the North Carolina Forest Service says a lack of rain, or even a lack of snow in the mountains, is a problem for our fall and winter fire season.

“You just don’t get much rain or snow to compact those leaves, so they stay fluffy so they become more available to burn,” Speary said.

Fall and into winter is a time when many people clean up yards, gardens, and fields, but 65 percent of wildfires in North Carolina start by people simply burning yard, garden, and field debris. The Forest Service isn’t saying to stop burning; they’re just telling you to get a permit, which you can get for free. They also don’t want you to do it in town, and not leave a fire alone.

“Just keep a watch on it and don’t turn your back on it,” Speary said. “And if something does happen, don’t wait. Don’t try to battle it yourself with what little tools you have. Don’t be afraid to make the 911 call.”

As for this year, if we can get rain once or twice a week, that should keep fire danger low and manageable. If it’s a dry winter, however, the fire danger will get worse.

“In February, when things get to the point where we have longer days and it’s a little warmer and that wind picks up, the humidity dropped, there’s not going to be enough moisture in the ground on the surface to keep these fires small,” Speary said.

So, as you watch the leaves blow in the fall breeze, do your part to make sure fires don’t get out of control. For more tips, or for any questions about fires or burning, go to the North Carolina Forest Service’s website.

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