RALEIGH, NC -- Because of 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 Western North Carolina: Alexander, Avery, Buncombe, Burke, Caldwell, Catawba, Cherokee, Clay, Cleveland, Gaston, Graham, Haywood, Henderson, Jackson, Lincoln, Macon, Madison, McDowell, Mitchell, Polk, Rutherford, Swain, Transylvania, Watauga and Yancey.

The burning ban will took effect Monday evening and will be in effect until further notice.

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 also has been suspended until the ban is lifted.

The ban on open burning is necessary because of the dry weather conditions and the potential for the increase in human-caused wildfires in the region.

“Fire experts with the N.C. Forest Service feel that with the current drought situation and the number of fires burning on federal lands, it would be best to be proactive about preventing human-caused wildfires. And I agree with them,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler.

Violation of the ban carries a $100 fine plus court costs of $180.

Here are a few facts about the law regarding the ban on open burning:

  • The burn ban does not apply to cooking fires such as grills or outdoor cookers.
  • The ban does not apply to a fire within 100 feet of an occupied dwelling. County fire marshals 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. In addition, other local ordinances and air quality regulations may also impact open burning.
  • If a fire within that 100-foot area 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 responsible for reimbursing the N.C. Forest Service for any expenses related to extinguishing it.
  • Open burning includes burning leaves, branches and other plant material. In all cases, it is illegal to burn trash, lumber, tires, newspapers, plastics or other non-vegetative materials.
  • Outdoor burning is also prohibited in areas covered by Code Orange or Code Red air quality forecasts.

Additionally, the dry weather has put the state in extremely high risk of wildfire, 14 state parks in western North Carolina have placed temporary bans on campfires, according to North Carolina State Parks. Restrictions on campfires and cooking fires could be expanded to other parks on short notice, depending on local conditions.

Wildfires of less than 100 acres have erupted at Chimney Rock State Park in Rutherford County and South Mountains State Park in Burke County, and extremely dry conditions at all western state parks present a wildfire risk. Backcountry trails and campsites at South Mountains have been closed. Rangers from other areas of the state are joining firefighters from the North Carolina Forest Service and other agencies at Chimney Rock and South Mountains.

Campfire bans are in effect at Chimney Rock, Crowders Mountain, Elk Knob, Gorges, Grandfather Mountain, Hanging Rock, Lake James, Lake Norman, Mount Mitchell, Morrow Mountain, New River (including Mount Jefferson State Natural Area), Pilot Mountain, South Mountains and Stone Mountain state parks. Cooking fires using propane and other approved camp stove fuels are allowed in designated areas.

Campers and picnickers throughout the state parks system should be extremely careful with campfires and cooking fires. Use only designated areas for fires, do not leave fires unattended and use extra care to extinguish fires before leaving a campsite or picnic area.

Before visiting a state park for camping or picnicking, check that park’s page on the North Carolina State Parks website www.ncparks.gov for fire restrictions that may be in place.