• Jeff Ishee

Landowners cautioned: "Don't burn on dry, windy days"

RALEIGH – The N.C. Forest Service urges residents to remember safety and to be cautious when burning materials during the spring wildfire season, which typically runs from March through May. The leading cause of wildfires in North Carolina is debris burning. When left unattended, debris fires can escape and start wildfires.

“Protect our forests and natural resources by being safe when you’re burning debris. Don’t burn on dry, windy days. Keep a careful watch over your fire. Make sure you stay with your fire until it is completely out,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “Let’s remember that wildfires can start and stop with each of us.”

There are many factors to consider before burning debris. The N.C. Forest Service encourages residents to contact your local NCFS county ranger. The ranger can offer technical advice and explain the best options to help ensure the safety of people, property and the forest. To find contact information for your county forest ranger, go to

For people who choose to burn debris, the N.C. Forest Service offers the following tips to protect property and prevent wildfires:

  • consider alternatives to burning. Some types of debris, such as leaves, grass and stubble, may be of more value if they are not burned but used for mulch instead.

  • Check local burning laws. Some communities allow burning only during specified hours. Others forbid it entirely.

  • Make sure you have a valid permit. You can obtain a burn permit at any N.C. Forest Service office or authorized permitting agent, or online at

  • Keep an eye on the weather. Don’t burn on dry, windy days.

  • Local fire officials can recommend a safe way to burn debris. Don’t pile vegetation on the ground. Instead, place it in a cleared area and contain it in a screened receptacle away from overhead branches and wires.

  • Household trash should be hauled away to a trash or recycling station. It is illegal to burn anything other than yard debris.

  • Be sure you are fully prepared before burning. To control the fire, you will need a hose, bucket, steel rake and a shovel for tossing dirt on the fire. Keep a phone nearby, too.

  • Never use kerosene, gasoline, diesel fuel or other flammable liquids to speed up debris burning.

  • Stay with your fire until it is completely out.

  • These same tips apply to campfires and grills as well. Douse burning charcoal briquettes or campfires thoroughly with water.Drown all embers, not just the red ones. When soaked, stir the coals and soak them again. Make sure everything is wet and that embers are cold to the touch. If you do not have water, mix enough dirt or sand with the embers to extinguish the fire, being careful not to bury the fire. Never dump hot ashes or coals into a wooded area.

  • Burning agricultural residue and forestland litter: In addition to the rules above, a fire line should be plowed around the area to be burned. Large fields should be separated into small plots for burning one at a time. Before doing any burning in a wooded area, contact your NCFS county ranger, who will weigh all factors, explain them and offer technical advice.

  • Always exercise caution with any outdoor burning. Even when burn bans are not in effect, weather conditions may not be favorable for outdoor fires. Outdoor burning is discouraged during periods of low humidity or high winds.

Studies have shown that taking these and other measures can reduce the possibility of wildfires. To learn more about fire safety and preventing wildfires and loss of property, go to