As warmer weather approaches, your Buncombe County Fire Marshal's office wants to remind our community to be mindful with fires. Firem Marshal Kevin Tipton notes, "Most people are careful with fire. We build fires in the right places, at the right time. We keep a fire at the proper size and put it out before leaving it. When people aren't careful the result can be catastrophic, maybe even leading to a wildfire." Wildfires can do terrible damage. With North Carolina’s growing population and wildland-urban interface, wildfire risk also grows. To be the first line of defense against wildfire follow these best practices.
Check for any burning bans or fire restrictions that may be in effect for your area. Some communities allow burning only during specified hours while others forbid it entirely. Contact your Asheville-Buncombe Air Quality agency at (828) 250-6777 for the daily burning information
- Keep an eye on the weather. Don't burn on dry, windy days.
- Consider alternatives to burning. Some types of vegetative debris, such as leaves, grass and stubble, may be of more value if used for compost.
- It is always illegal to burn household trash or anything other than vegetative matter.
Burning agriculture residue and forestland litter
Be fully prepared before burning off your field or garden spot. To control the fire, you will need a water source, bucket, a steel rake and a shovel for tossing dirt on the fire. If possible, 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. Never leave your fire unattended. Be sure to stay with your fire until it is out. Before burning in a wooded area, contact your NC Forest Service County Ranger. The ranger will weigh all factors, explain them to you and offer technical advice.
Using lanterns, stoves, and heaters
Cool a lantern, stove or heater before refueling. Before filling, place it on the ground in a cleared area. If fuel spills, move the appliance to a new clearing before lighting it. Recap and store flammable liquid containers in a safe place. Never light lanterns and stoves inside a tent, trailer or camper. If you use a lantern or stove inside a tent or trailer, be sure to have adequate ventilation. Always read and follow instructions provided by the manufacturer.
Several types of equipment and vehicles are required to have spark arresters. Chainsaws, portable generators, cross country vehicles, and trail bikes require spark arresters if used in or near grass, brush, or wooded areas. To ensure a spark arrester is functioning properly, check with the dealer.
Grind out your cigarettes, cigars, or pipe tobacco in the dirt when smoking outdoors. Never grind it on a stump or log. It is unsafe to smoke while walking, riding a horse, or trail bike. Use your ashtray while in your car. Never dump used cigarettes out the window.
After burning charcoal briquettes, douse them thoroughly with water. Don't just sprinkle water over the coals. When the coals are soaked with water, stir the coals and soak them again. Be sure they are out. Carefully feel the coals with your bare hands to be sure they are extinguished and out cold!
Building and putting out campfires
Build campfires away from overhanging branches, steep slopes, rotten stumps, logs, dry grass, and leaves. Pull any extra wood away from the fire. Keep plenty of water handy, and have a shovel for tossing dirt on the fire if it gets out of control. Start your campfire with dry twigs and small sticks. Add larger sticks as the fire builds up. Put the largest pieces of wood on last, pointing them toward the center of the fire, gradually pushing them into the flames. Keep your campfire small. A good bed of coals or a small fire surrounded by rocks gives plenty of heat. Scrape away litter, duff and any burnable material within a 10-foot (3 meter) diameter circle around the fire. This will keep a small campfire from spreading.
After lighting a campfire, be sure your match is out. Hold it until it is cold and then break it so you can feel the charred portion before discarding. Never leave a campfire unattended. Even a small breeze could quickly cause a fire to spread. After use, drown the fire with water. Make sure all embers, coals and sticks are wet. Move rocks because there may be more burning embers underneath. Stir the remains. Add more water and stir again. Be sure all burned material has been extinguished and is cool. If you do not have water, use dirt. Mix enough soil or sand with the embers. Continue adding and stirring until all material is cool. Feel all materials with your bare hand. Make sure that no roots are burning, and do not bury your coals. They can smolder and ignite.
Check for any current local burn bans that may restrict outdoor burning. Contact your Asheville-Buncombe Air Quality agency at (828) 250-6777 for the daily burning information or the North Carolina Forest Service.
As a reminder, a little extra care takes only a few minutes of your time, and it could prevent a wildfire.