Newsdesk - 2019
June 10, 2019
Burn ban lifted for 18 eastern North Carolina counties as conditions improve
RALEIGH – The burn ban for Beaufort, Bladen, Brunswick, Carteret, Columbus, Craven, Dare, Duplin, Hyde, Jones, Lenoir, New Hanover, Onslow, Pamlico, Pender, Pitt, Tyrrell and Washington counties has been lifted as of 5 p.m. Monday, June 10. The ban went into effect on May 30 due to extremely dry conditions in the area.
Burn permits are now available in those counties once again, however caution is strongly encouraged with any open burning as careless debris burns are the leading cause of wildfires in North Carolina.
"We’re thankful for the recent rainfall and improved conditions which have lessened much of the wildfire risk in the Coastal area," said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. "Even with the burn ban in place, wildland firefighters with our N.C. Forest Service responded to 53 wildfires covering 342 acres within those burn ban counties. The ban’s purpose was to prevent human-caused fires, freeing up responders to focus on wildfires naturally caused by lightning."
The online burn permit system is open again statewide. All burn permits previously granted within the 18 burn ban counties were cancelled when the ban was implemented so new permit applications must be submitted. Online burn permits are available at www.ncforestservice.gov or in-person from local agent within each county.
Residents with questions regarding their specific county can contact their county ranger with the N.C. Forest Service or their county fire marshal’s office.
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June 3, 2019
Don’t fly drones near wildfires
Unmanned aerial systems can endanger wildland firefighting operations
RALEIGH- An increased use of drones, or unmanned aerial systems, around active wildfires are putting wildland firefighting operations at risk. These devices fly within the same altitude as aerial firefighting aircraft, which is between ground level and 200 feet. Firefighting aircraft do not have any methods of detecting drones other than by seeing them. Visually detecting drones is nearly impossible due to their small size.
"To put it simply, drones and firefighting aircraft don't mix," said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. "If you fly, the firefighters can’t. Aerial collisions between drones and aircraft could occur. Due to these safety concerns, when drones are spotted near wildfires, aircraft must land or move away to other areas. This means no fire retardant or water can be dropped, no tactical information can be provided to firefighters from above, and homes or other property could be put at risk if wildfires grow larger."
The N.C. Forest Service is requesting the public’s help to keep wildland and aerial firefighters safe by not flying drones anywhere near a wildfire. N.C. General Statue 14-208.3 states that drone operators may not damage, disrupt the operation of or otherwise interfere with manned flights. Anyone in violation of this law can be found guilty of a Class H felony.
For more information, contact your local N.C. Forest Service office or visit the NCFS website.
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May 30, 2019
Burn ban issued for 18 eastern North Carolina counties due to hazardous forest fire conditions
RALEIGH – Due to increased fire risk, the N.C. Forest Service has issued a ban on all open burning and canceled all burning permits for the following counties in Eastern North Carolina (map view): Beaufort, Bladen, Brunswick, Carteret, Columbus, Craven, Dare, Duplin, Hyde, Jones, Lenoir, New Hanover, Onslow, Pamlico, Pender, Pitt, Tyrrell and Washington.
The burning ban goes into effect at 5 p.m. on Thursday, May 30, 2019, and will remain in effect until further notice. The N.C. Forest Service will continue to monitor conditions.
Under North Carolina law, the ban prohibits all open burning in the affected counties, regardless of whether a permit was issued. The issuance of any new permits has also been suspended until the ban is lifted. Violating the burn ban incurs a $100 fine plus $180 court costs. The person responsible for setting a fire may be liable for reimbursing the N.C. Forest Service for any expenses related to extinguishing it.
"The dry weather conditions these last few weeks, plus the potential for an increase in human-caused wildfires in the region, makes this ban on open burning necessary," said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. "During the month of May, there have been 355 wildfires statewide, covering 1,348 acres. This burn ban is a proactive step to protect lives and property by preventing human-caused wildfires."
Local fire departments and law enforcement officers are assisting the N.C. Forest Service in enforcing the burn ban.
Answers to frequently asked questions
Q: What is open burning?
A: Open burning includes burning leaves, branches or other plant material. In all cases, burning trash, lumber, tires, newspapers, plastics or other non-vegetative material is illegal.
Q: May I still use my grill or barbeque?
A: Yes, if no other local ordinances prohibit their use.
Q: How should I report a wildfire?
A: Call 911 to report a wildfire.
Q: My local fire marshal has also issued a burn ban for my county. What does this mean?
A: The burn ban issued by the N.C. Forest service does not apply to a fire within 100 feet of an occupied dwelling. Local government agencies have jurisdiction over open burning within 100 feet of an occupied dwelling. The N.C. Forest Service has advised county fire marshals of the burning ban and asked for their consideration of also implementing a burning ban. If a fire within a 100-foot area of a dwelling escapes containment, a North Carolina forest ranger may take reasonable steps to extinguish or control it. The person responsible for setting the fire may be liable for reimbursing the N.C. Forest Service for any expenses related to extinguishing it.
Q: Are there other instances which impact open burning?
A: Local ordinances and air quality regulations may impact open burning. For instance, outdoor burning is prohibited in areas covered by Code Orange or Code Red air quality forecasts. Learn more about air quality forecasts on the Air Quality Website
Q: Can I have a campfire when I go camping?
A: Campfires would be considered open burning and are not exempt from the burn ban. Portable gas stoves or grills are alternate methods for cooking food while camping during a burn ban.
Q: What can I do to protect my house against the risk of wildfire?
A: Learn about wildfire risk assessments and preparedness and prevention plans on the N.C. Forest Service website
Residents with questions regarding their specific county can contact their county ranger with the N.C. Forest Service or their county fire marshal’s office.
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May 29, 2019
N.C. Forest Service urges extreme caution with fire
Careless debris burning is the leading cause of wildfires in North Carolina
RALEIGH - The N.C. Forest Service urges everyone to be cautious with fire. The lack of rainfall in most areas has increased the probability of wildfires, especially within the eastern portion of the state. The U.S. Drought Monitor lists 21 counties in southeast North Carolina as abnormally dry.
"There are several things to consider before burning debris or lighting a campfire," cautions Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. "Some tips to remember are to always check the weather prior to burning. Follow all state and local regulations. Ensure any fires are an adequate safe distance from other flammable material, especially wooded areas and flammable material that may lead to houses. With all fires, maintain a constant watch until the debris pile or campfire is completely out."
Careless debris burning is the leading cause of wildfires in North Carolina. Landowners with electric fences should also be aware that dry, high grass is susceptible to catching fire from even the smallest of sparks. A grass fire can quickly consume a barn or home and spread to wooded areas.
The N.C. Forest Service urges people to follow these 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 burning permit at any N.C. Forest Service office or authorized permitting agent, or online.
- 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 debris burning.
- Stay with your fire until it is completely out.
- Keep an eye on the weather. Don’t burn on dry, windy days.
- 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.
- These same tips hold true for campfires and barbeques as well. Douse burning charcoal briquettes or campfires thoroughly with water. When soaked, stir the coals and soak them again. Be sure they are out cold and carefully feel to be sure they are extinguished. 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 county ranger, who will weigh all factors, explain them and offer technical advice.
Studies have shown that taking these and other measures can reduce the possibility of wildfires. For more information on ways you can prevent wildfires and loss of property, visit the NCFS website
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May 21, 2019
Hooker Falls Access Area Restroom to Open
DuPont State Recreational Forest builds new restrooms for visitors
CEDAR MOUNTAIN - DuPont State Recreational Forest (DSRF) is improving visitor service by opening a new restroom near the Hooker Falls Access Area. The facility will be available to the public Thursday, May 23, at 8 a.m. The bathrooms are designed for high-traffic and to improve the visitor experience over portable toilets currently at that location. Funding for the facility was made possible by the support of the Friends of DuPont Forest, the North Carolina Legislature and the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
"We are excited to offer our visitors a new level of comfort and convenience with these restrooms. The facilities are our first new building construction project since 2008, adding to other improvements such as the pedestrian bridge and the Aleen Steinberg Center to keep pace with the public’s needs," said Jason Guidry, DSRF forest supervisor.
Form & Function Architecture, PC in Ashville designed the facility, and the North Carolina branch of Brantley Construction Company, LLC was the general contractor for the project. The facility was sized and designed to provide service to 30,000 visitors in a month. Construction started in late 2017 and had to contend with the record-setting amount of rain throughout 2018.
"We never thought we would be so excited about a bathroom! On any given day, Hooker Falls Access Area is one of the busiest places in the Forest and the bathrooms were a much-needed improvement," said Sara Landry, Friends of DuPont executive director. "We are proud to have partnered with the NC Forest Service to make this happen."
Holly Road Trail and Moore Cemetery Road Trail will reopen to the public after being temporarily closed for the public’s safety during construction.
DuPont State Recreational Forest has nearly 12,000 acres of managed forestland that serves as a popular outdoor recreation destination for over 800,000 visitors a year. The Forest has several iconic waterfalls for scenic enjoyment and more than 80 miles of multiuse trails for hiking, biking and horseback riding. The Forest is managed by the North Carolina Forest Service, a division within the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
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May 16, 2019
Ed Mar Farms inducted to the N.C. Longleaf Honor Roll
CARTHAGE - The N.C. Forest Service joined others from the N.C. Longleaf Coalition to recognize Ed Mar Farms, LLC. for their recent induction to the N.C. Longleaf Honor Roll. This prestigious award was presented to Elise and Tracey McInnis, Chris Marion and Catherine Edwards, owners of Ed Mar Farms, for their efforts managing longleaf pine on their 953-acre farm in Moore County.
To be eligible for the Longleaf Honor Roll, Ed Mar Farms demonstrated active forest management, including regular prescribed burning and minimizing pine straw raking, as well as following other recommendations in their forest management plan. Ed Mar Farms retains consulting forester, David Halley of True North Forest Management Services, and has invested in an updated comprehensive Forest Stewardship Plan that outlines strategies to keep their lands as a working forest that is beautiful and provides benefits to wildlife. A working forest is one that is managed to provide a renewable supply of timber for lumber, paper and other wood products used by people daily.
Altogether, Ed Mar Farms manages 251 acres of longleaf pine. They partnered with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Longleaf Alliance on their most recent longleaf project to carefully select herbicides to remove unwanted vegetation, while preserving the native understory plants. This allowed for the first prescribed burn to take place just one year after planting their longleaf seedlings. Longleaf pines are uniquely situated to survive fire, the most important management tool to create habitat for many species of wildlife including Northern bobwhites, brown-headed nuthatches, deer, fox squirrels and wild turkey.
"Ed Mar Farms are proud stewards of their mature, 60-70-year-old longleaf stand, but their work to return several areas back to longleaf pine is equally commendable. Their extra efforts to retain their older remnant longleaf during the conversion process has created a beautiful, multi-aged stand," said Sarah Crate, Longleaf Coordinator with the N.C. Forest Service and Co-Chair of the N.C. Longleaf Coalition.
In addition to being good stewards of their land, they serve as a model for others by hosting field tours to learn about successful management of longleaf. They are also a certified Tree Farm and enrolled in the Safe Harbor Program. As a certified Tree Farm through the American Tree Farm System they are recognized as being a sustainable forest that helps to protect watershed and healthy wildlife habitats, which includes harvesting trees coupled with reforestation efforts. The Safe Harbor Program was developed to help protect the habitat of the Red-cockaded Woodpecker by addressing conservation needs and the concerns of non-federal property owners in North Carolina.
Ed Mar Farms was presented with an Longleaf Honor Roll sign to display on the property and a 1-year membership into the N.C. Prescribed Fire Council, which fosters cooperation among all parties in the state with an interest in prescribed fire. To learn more about the N.C. Longleaf Coalition visit their website.
If you’re interested in managing your forestland call your county ranger. Contact information can be found here.
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April 5, 2019
N.C. Forest Service urges residents to think safety in spring wildfire season
RALEIGH - The N.C. Forest Service is urging North Carolina residents to think safety and exercise extra caution when burning materials during the spring fire season. The spring fire season typically runs from March through May, and is historically the time when wildfires are most likely to occur.
"The leading cause of wildfires is careless debris burning. Protect our natural resources by acting safely," said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. "Don't burn on dry, windy days; maintain a careful watch over your debris fire; and make sure it is fully extinguished."
Troxler also warned against using drones over wildfires, an emerging concern across the country. In 2018, there were 26 drone incursions into air space over wildfires across the nation. When unauthorized aircraft, such as drones, fly into the same airspace as helicopters and airplanes even at low altitudes, the air operations must be stopped due to safety concerns. This means no water drops to slow the spread of a fire and no eyes in the sky to help direct firefighters on the ground, Troxler said.
The N.C. Forest Service encourages anyone considering debris burning to contact his or her local county forest ranger. The forest ranger can offer technical advice and explain the best options to help maximize safety to people, property and the forest. For people who choose to burn debris, the N.C. Forest Service urges them to adhere to the following tips to protect property and prevent wildfires:
- Make sure you have an approved burning permit, which can be obtained at any N.C. Forest Service office, a county-approved burning permit agent, or online.
- Check with your county fire marshal’s office for local laws on burning debris. Some communities allow burning only during specified hours; others forbid it entirely.
- Check the weather. Don’t burn if conditions are dry or windy.
- Consider alternatives to burning. Some yard debris such as leaves and grass may be more valuable if composted.
- Only burn natural vegetation from your property. Burning household trash or any other man-made materials is illegal. Trash should be hauled away to a convenience center.
- Plan burning for the late afternoon when conditions are typically less windy and more humid.
- If you must burn, be prepared. Use a shovel or hoe to clear a perimeter down to mineral soil of at least 10-feet, preferably more, around the area around where you plan to burn.
- Keep fire tools ready. To control the fire, you will need a water hose, bucket, a steel rake and a shovel for tossing dirt on the fire.
- Never use flammable liquids such as kerosene, gasoline or diesel fuel to speed debris burning.
- Stay with your fire until it is completely out. Remember, debris burning is the No. 1 cause of wildfires in the state.
- These same tips hold true for campfires and barbeques as well. Douse burning charcoal briquettes or campfires thoroughly with water. When soaked; stir the coals and soak them again. Be sure they are out cold and carefully feel to be sure they are extinguished. Never dump hot ashes or coals into a wooded area.
- Burning agriculture 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 county ranger who will weigh all factors, explain them and offer technical advice.
Studies have shown that taking these and other measures can greatly reduce wildfires and the loss of property associated with them. For more information on ways you can prevent wildfires and loss of property, click above on "Programs and Services", click on "Fire Control and Prevention" and follow the links.
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Feburary 1, 2019
Applications being accepted for Florence Reforestation Fund
Requests considered on a first-come, first-served basis
RALEIGH – Woodland owners in 52 counties impacted by Hurricane Florence and recognized as federally-declared disaster areas can now apply for cost-share funding for reforestation efforts. The North Carolina General Assembly approved $2.5 million in time-limited funding for reforestation efforts that will be administered by the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and the N.C. Forest Service.
"Hurricane Florence not only devastated agricultural crops, but the storm also caused considerable damage to our valuable forestlands. The Florence Reforestation Fund will help owners rebuild these natural resources," said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. "I am grateful to legislators for providing funding that will help keep North Carolina green and growing."
Qualifying property in designated counties will be eligible to apply for the program funding. However, funding requests should be for "shovel-ready" projects and practices that can be completed within short time periods. Funds will be administered similar to other NCFS cost‐share programs such as the Timber Restoration Fund that was offered following Hurricane Matthew.
Approved practices include site preparation and tree planting as recommended in the applicant’s management plan. Afforestation of open fields or pastureland is also eligible, however, funding for forest stand improvement practices is not available through this program. To receive reimbursement, at least 4.5 acres of approved, completed work must be documented. The maximum funding allocation will be 100 acres per landowner per fiscal year.
Applications need to be submitted to the landowner’s local N.C. Forest Service office for initial review, before they are sent to the NCFS Central Office for final approval. Applications will be funded on a first‐come, first‐served basis until all available funds have been allocated. Projects should be completed by May 1, 2020.
To learn more about the Florence Reforestation Fund, landowners should call their local county ranger’s office.
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