Wildfires near Asheville resulted from people burning debris

State forestry officials say the recent wildfire near Asheville was the result of burning residential debris, and they say it’s hard to get control of the problem.

The Asheville Citizen-Times reports (http://avlne.ws/1ykqL6E) figures from the N.C. Forest Service show that of 4,593 fires in North Carolina in 2014, debris burning was listed as the cause in 2,237 of them. A long-term average shows that 42 percent of all wildfires in the state each year are caused by debris burning.

State officials say tighter regulations aren’t necessarily the answer. A forest service law enforcement officer says what’s needed is a greater sense of responsibility from people who start debris fires, and more understanding of the dangers.

The Buncombe County wildfire burned more than 700 acres, destroyed one home and damaged five others.

An N.C. Forest Service permit is required to burn debris if the burning is within 500 feet of woodlands, but regulations vary at the local level.

Open burning is regulated by the state Forest Service, the N.C. Division of Air Quality and, in Buncombe County, the WNC Regional Air Quality Agency. Additionally, local restrictions are in place in most municipalities.

In Asheville, for example, residential debris burning is not allowed, though small recreational campfires are permitted, Asheville Fire Department public information officer Kelley Klope said.

City residents generally follow the rules, but the department occasionally has to respond to an illegal debris burn, she said.

“Generally, we go out and try to educate, let them know the rules and have them extinguish the fire,” Klope said. “It’s generally people who aren’t knowledgeable about the rules and regulations and thought they were doing the right thing.”

Burning generally is allowed in unincorporated areas where public pickup of yard debris is not available. But an N.C. Forest Service burning permit is required for any fire within 500 feet of woodlands – unless the burn is within 100 feet of an occupied dwelling.

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Information from: The Asheville Citizen-Times, http://www.citizen-times.com

(Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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