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North Carolina Forest Service issues statewide burn ban as wildfire on Pilot Mountain continues

It comes after a days-long fight to contain a massive wildfire on Pilot Mountain in addition to a dry autumn season across the Carolinas.

PILOT MOUNTAIN, N.C. — The North Carolina Forest Service issued a statewide burn ban as of 5 p.m. Monday due to hazardous forest fire conditions. With the increased fire danger, N.C. Forest Service issued a ban on all open burning and all burning permits have been canceled statewide until further notice. 

It comes after a days-long fight to contain a massive wildfire on Pilot Mountain in addition to a dry autumn season across the Carolinas.

As of last Thursday's U.S. Drought Monitor update, over 80% of the state of North Carolina was under “drier than normal” conditions. The biggest expansion lately, however, has been the moderate drought -- sitting at 47%. That means almost half the state needs multiple inches of rain to be back to normal. 

Credit: WCNC
NC Statewide Burn Ban

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RELATED: No end in sight for drought conditions in North Carolina, South Carolina

Drier than normal conditions, dry brush and leaves, low humidity, and elevated wind can often lead to elevated fire danger.  

Crews in North Carolina have been working to contain a massive wildfire on Pilot Mountain since Saturday evening. Two departments were initially called out to the fire around 5:15 p.m. Saturday. Later that evening, the fire had grown to about 60 acres. By Monday afternoon, the fire had grown to 500 acres. 

Dozens of fire-fighting officials have been called in to help, including North Carolina Forest Service personnel and North Carolina Parks crews. Planes are also being used to dump water onto the fire.

Additionally, several fire crews responded to a brush fire in Watauga County Sunday, along Elk Creek Road.

The Cabarrus County Fire Marshal’s Office issued a separate burn ban within the county until further notice. The ban prohibits all open burning within 100 feet of a structure, which coincides with the statewide ban which prohibits burning conducted more than 100 feet from a structure. 

Call 911 and report any brush fire any soon as you notice it. Anyone who violates the burn ban faces a $100 fine plus $183 in court costs, according to N.C. Forest Service. Local fire departments and law enforcement officers will assist with enforcing the burn ban. 

LATEST UPDATES: Pilot Mountain wildfire: 500 acres burning

The U.S. Drought Monitor of North Carolina currently places Union County in “moderate drought” conditions. That’s enough of an impact that neighbors who live along Lake Lee say they have noticed a significant difference in the lake levels. 

“It was pretty low once before, but not this low,” neighbor Pan Duda said. “Even people’s docks are dry dock now.” 

Drought Management says the lake levels are at a 17-inch rainfall deficit that has some residents worried. 

“That’s kind of our concern is resources,” Duda said. 

A total of three lakes — Lee, Twitty, and Monroe — help to supply water to the more than 40,000 City of Monroe residents. Officials say they are managing water supply and lake levels and will implement usage restrictions if necessary. 

For now, no significant rainfall is expected anytime soon for the area. In the long term, there is also concern a future development along Lake Lee building about 700 new homes could mean more people and potentially even greater water usage. 

“We’re going to be going through moderate droughts like this and we’re seeing it this low. I don’t know what the resolve would be,” Duda said. “Do we have enough resources for the people we’re trying to put up in here?” 

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