Forest rangers, firefighters on the job

Residents asked not to burn until significant rainfall
Nov. 30, 2012 @ 09:41 AM

Rangers from the N.C. Forest Service and firefighters from Hudlow and Cherry Mountain fire departments battled a forest fire off Camp Creek Road, off US 64, near Cane Creek community Thursday afternoon. 

A near-by resident noticed the smoke on the mountain and notified the homeowner and called for help. The property involved about 100 acres, but the fire did not spread throughout the area.

Firefighters and rangers were able to get to the fire quickly and began to extinguish flames that were burning along the hillside and moving up the mountain.

A small creek, a few yards from an occupied log house, prevented the fire from getting to the house, and water from the creek was also planned to be used to fight the fire.

A fire was started in the wooded area a few days ago by the homeowner — during a brief rain — some embers may have been hot enough to start the fire Thursday. 

The fire is one of many that has occurred in Rutherford County and across the state in the past few days because of lack of rain.

The possibility of rain showers predicted for Tuesday, Nov. 27, never happened, thus adding to the fire risks,the forest service reported Thursday.

Henry Kunzig, ranger with the forest service, located off Airport Road in Rutherfordton, said residents are asked to be safe and avoid burning yard waste and other debris until there is significant rainfall.

On Tuesday, when rain was predicted, Kunzig said there was no evidence of rain from the data collected at the office and weather data collectors from others areas in the county,measured less than 3/100ths of rainfall on other areas across the county, he said.

"That is insignificant," he said.

People who burn yard debris and trash and are caught will be written citations that carry a $50 fine. In addition to the fine, the person burning trash will also have to pay the cost of court, approximately $180 for the Class 3 misdemeanor.

For the past two weeks, Kungiz said forest rangers in Rutherford County have not had a day off work due to the number of fires across the county, some out-of-control burns that began with burning yard waste.

He said the fires hadn't destroyed a lot of property  — up to Thursday afternoon — because rangers "have been able to catch them really fast."

The property damage from the Camp Creek Road fire could result in numerous acres scorched.

Across the state there have been more than 600 wildfires in November, according to Forest Service statistics. Debris burning is the number one cause of wildfires in North Carolina.

Forest rangers here dispatched to a couple fires on Thanksgiving Day and a few other fires on subsequent days, Kunzig said.

Forest rangers, along with Forest City firefighters, responded to a fire that was out of control near Butler Road and US 74B,that was heading up to the highway.

Working with Kunzig in Rutherford Thursday were three rangers and a bulldozer operator. An additional three or four fire fighters were also on call at the office and also assisted.

The bulldozer, a National Guard water tanker vehicle and several fire trucks were at the scene Thursday.

According to the N.C. Forest Service, humidity levels across the state are low, and projected increases in moisture may not be enough to prevent fuels from igniting if an ember lands among forest debris.

Individuals who determine that burning debris is a necessity should contact the forest rangers at 828-286-9201.

The ranger can offer technical advice and explain the best options to maximize the safety of people, property and the forest.

“Protect our natural resources by acting safely; don’t burn on dry, windy days, and maintain a careful watch over a fire until it is extinguished,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler.

The Forest Service urges people who choose to burn debris, to adhere to the following tips:

• Make sure you have a valid burning permit, which can be obtained at any N.C. Forest Service office or authorized permitting agent, or online at

• Check with your county fire marshal’s office for local laws on burning debris. Some communities allow burning only during specified hours; others forbid it entirely.

• Check the weather. Don’t burn on dry, windy days.

• Some yard debris, such as leaves and grass, may be more valuable if composted.

• Burn natural vegetation only. Burning household trash or any other man-made materials is illegal. Trash should be hauled away to a convenience center.

• Plan burning for the late afternoon when conditions are typically less windy and more humid.

• Be prepared. Have a shovel or hoe to clear a perimeter around the burn area.

• For fire control, you will need a hose, bucket, a steel rake and a shovel for tossing dirt on the fire.

• Never use flammable liquids such as kerosene, gasoline or diesel fuel to speed debris burning.

• Stay with the fire until it is completely out.

• Never dump hot ashes or coals into a wooded area. Instead, douse burning charcoal or campfires thoroughly with water; stir the coals and soak them again. Be sure they are extinguished.