As the summer begins, area officials want to encourage fire safety. Campfires, bonfires and fireworks are all popular summertime activities, but ones which should be done with great care.
Dakota Paris, a forest ranger in Yadkin County, said it may seem like an understatement, but “be careful” is the first phrase that comes to mind for those enjoying a recreational fire this summer.
“Safety is number one,” added Yadkin County Fire Marshal Ricky Leonard.
Those planning to have a recreational fire near their home should first check their town ordinance to be sure it is allowed. If so, the fire should be done in a cleared area at least 25 feet away from the home and roadway, Leonard said.
Paris also said it was important to check overhead clearance to be sure the fire is not below a tree with dried limbs or leaves which could easily catch fire from sparks or ash flying up. The fire also should be no more than three feet wide. Only natural elements may be burned. Any man-made items may not be burned at all.
Having a means of suppression nearby, such as a water hose or a rake, is also important for fire safety, added Assistant County Ranger Michael Huffman.
One of the most important fire safety rules to follow is never leave a fire unattended. When putting out a recreational fire, Paris said it was important to not only pour water on the blaze, but to stir the contents to be sure the water has soaked through the entire area and properly doused the fire.
Officials also said to be aware of the weather conditions and do not start a fire if there are high winds, or if the area has gone without rain for an extended time period.
If allowed by town ordinance, fires considered to be recreational such as cooking fires do not require a burn permit. However, fires to burn yard debris such as fallen limbs, leaves or grass trimmings do require a burn permit. Again, only non-man-made items may be burned, no trash or other household items. Burn permits may be obtained at local hardware stores or online at www.ncforestservice.gov.
Rangers can give out tickets to individuals engaging in improper outdoor fires. The burning of man-made items also can result in fines, up to $10,000, from the state’s Division of Air Quality Control.
When it comes to fireworks, Leonard said it was best to leave them to the professionals as there are several professional firework displays planned for the area. Fireworks brought in from South Carolina are illegal to discharge in North Carolina. Though there are smaller consumer fireworks sold within the state which are legal to discharge, Leonard said they still pose a fire and safety risk.
According to the National Fire Protection Association, fireworks cause an average of almost 20,000 reported fires per year. Even smaller fireworks such as sparklers can be dangerous. In 2013, sparklers, which burn at 1200 degrees, caused 41 percent of fireworks injuries.
Kitsey Burns Harrison may be reached at 336-679-2341 or on Twitter @RippleReporterK.