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Energy & Environment

North Carolina issues statewide burn ban as Pilot Mountain fire continues

The forest fire at Pilot Mountain State Park emits thick smoke as captured by WFDD's Paul Garber.
Courtesy Paul Garber
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The forest fire at Pilot Mountain State Park emits thick smoke as captured by WFDD's Paul Garber.

The North Carolina Forest Service has issued a statewide burn ban and has canceled all burning permits. The ban went into effect on Monday.

The move comes as the forest fire that has scorched much of Pilot Mountain State Park continues to burn. The fire has scorched more than 300 acres as firefighters try to control it.

“It is fall wildfire season in North Carolina, and we are seeing wildfire activity increase due to dry conditions,” state Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler said in a statement. “With these ongoing conditions, a statewide burn ban is necessary to reduce the risk of fires starting and spreading quickly. Our top priority is always to protect lives, property and forestland across the state.”

The issuance of any new burning permits has also been suspended.

Anyone violating the burn ban faces a $100 fine plus $183 in court costs. Any person responsible for setting a fire may be liable for any expenses related to extinguishing the fire.

Under the burn ban, the use of outdoor grills and barbecues are still allowed, as long as no other local ordinance prohibits them. Burning trash, lumber, tires, newspapers, plastics or other non-vegetative material is illegal in North Carolina.

Open burning – which includes the burning of leaves, branches or any other plant material – is banned. Campfires are considered to be open burning, and are not exempt from the burn ban.

The fire at Pilot Mountain State Park was first reported on Saturday near a trail. By Monday, it had burned hundreds of acres and more than 40 firefighters were working to contain it.

Katie Hall is a spokeswoman for the state Division of Parks and Recreation. She says the whole park could be closed for a week, and key sections on the mountain itself even longer.

Once it’s open again, the damage will be obvious, but not permanent.

“In fact, in the medium to long term this will be incredibly healthy for the ecosystem at the park and is something that happens naturally and actually allows more native species to grow in the park,” Hall said. “And a lot of invasive species or overgrowth due to species that are not native to the park to be cleared out and make room for more native species to the area.”

Dozens of firefighters are expected to continue working on it for days.

Copyright 2021 North Carolina Public Radio. To see more, visit North Carolina Public Radio.