There’s been a huge scare in the North Carolina mountain regions, as we watch the greatest incident of wildfires continue to grow. A mass evacuation has already been called for those in the area, which spans across 25 counties in the mountains. Thousands of firefighters are currently combating the outbreak, and there are websites available for those interested in keeping track of the spread. At this time the situation is in their hands, and we are more or less left to sit and watch the events unfold. The Piedmont isn’t nearly as covered in forest as the western part of North Carolina, but several of us live in back areas in which there is an abundant amount of foliage. With the potential spread of the wildfires, and for the general safety of those who live in these areas, here are some preventative measures you can take to keep your home safe.
Pay Attention to the Weather
Arid and windy conditions are perfect for starting wildfires. The more dry the foliage around you is, the easier it will catch. If the winds in the surrounding area have picked up, that increases the chances of sparks or embers scattering. The two circumstances are ideal to start a fire anywhere, and according to the Wildland Fire Assessment System, North Carolina currently ranges between moderate to high chances of wildfires throughout the entire state (excluding coastal regions). Keeping track of the weather can help predict if wildfires have a chance to spread to your areas, as well as serve you if you’re trying to determine when to have friends over for a bonfire.
Tend to Foliage
It’s autumn, and with this time of year also comes the turning and falling of the leaves from the trees. The colder conditions will also leave trees more likely to start dying, accelerating rot or dead wood conditions. Keep your yard in check by raking regularly, and put a tarp over piles that have yet to be tended to. Monitor your trees as well, since falling branches, twigs, or entire dead trees are more likely to catch fire than live wood. If you are in a position where you cannot dispose of the wood, that can also be covered by a tarp; however, it is not recommended to leave it in this condition. The best measure to take is to keep your yard clean and dispose of the foliage which causes risk.
Have Designated Areas
In any regard to burning, you should have a safe space for the fire from beginning to end. Bonfires, leaf burning, cigarettes, and potentially outdoor grilling can be prone to starting forest fires.
When having a bonfire, it should be contained and monitored at all times. Whether you dig a pit into the ground and surround it with stone, or have a steel pit above land, do not leave it unattended. Even when it’s dying down, it needs to be watched for it’s embers. Once you have given the fire time to die down you want use a tool, such as a shovel or other stick, to spread the coals of the fire around to make it sparse. Pour water on the remnants and continue to mix until you are certain the coals are out. If water is unavailable to you, or you are concerned about trying to have another bonfire, you can use dirt as an alternative. During these Wildfires it’s important to note that campfires are banned in Iredell county.
If you decide to burn your leafs, branches, and twigs, you need a designated area that is away from trees, bushes, and basically anything you don’t want burned down. If disposal of these items is available, it is encouraged and recommended to do that before burning. Do not burn foreign materials, and know that the following is illegal to burn in North Carolina: Garbage, paper, cardboard, tires and other rubber products, building materials (including lumber), wire, plastics, synthetic materials, asphalt shingles, heavy oils, paints, and household and agricultural chemicals. This list is provided by the North Carolina Forest Service, and if you want more information about burning items on your land, here is the full Environmental Permit Information.
For those who smoke or have friends that smoke, cigarettes should not be casually tossed, but instead should have an ash tray for both during and after the activity. When you ash a cigarette there’s a chance the entire ember can fall, and while you may feel it’s a small chance that doesn’t make it any less dangerous. The ashtray serves to catch all the dangers of the cigarette, and also a place for the cigarette to burn out entirely. Regularly emptying the ashtray out is also recommended for safety purposes, as anything unfinished in the ashtray is a potential catalyst. If you don’t smoke, but have friends that do, getting an ashtray may play an important role for keeping the surrounding area clean.
Grilling can be the least likely way to start a forest fire, but can start an outdoor fire that spreads into a forest fire if you aren’t careful. The most common fires grilling is responsible for are for patios and house fires, so be aware of the materials you keep your grill next to. Depending on how you grill will determine what sorts of precautions you take. If you’re using a standard grill with lid which uses propane or coals, you should air caution to it’s potential to set your house on fire. If you are using an open flame grill (such as a flame in a pit with a metal grill over top) you would adhere to the same tips given above concerning bonfires.