10/17/07 — Don't light the fire: Rules will tighten on burning

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Don't light the fire: Rules will tighten on burning

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on October 17, 2007 2:19 PM

Local folks whose back yards double as yard waste incinerators might answer to the law while a statewide ban on open burning is in effect.

Normally, open burning allowances depend on whether you live in a city or town, or unincorporated regions of Wayne County where the Sheriff's Office enforces the law, local officials say.

But with a statewide ban in place, police of all stripes will regulate and stop open burning in Wayne County.

Gov. Mike Easley, during a conference with the N.C. League of Municipalities, announced a ban on open burning on Monday.

Reason being nearly 6,000 fires have destroyed about 33,000 acres of North Carolina this year, according to statistics attributed to the N.C. Division of Forest Resources.

Fires are more dangerous this time of year anyway -- a news release from Easley's office calls this "fall fire season."

Add that to especially dry conditions inflicted by a statewide drought, and you have conditions the governor thinks warrant a ban.

If you live in unincorporated Wayne County, the Sheriff's Office might come knocking at your door if open burning is suspected.

"If they (deputies) see anything, then we'll put a stop to it," Maj. John Winstead said.

Normally, however, the major rule for county areas outside town or city limits is that whatever you are burning must have been grown on the ground you own, Winstead said.

"It has to be natural on your property -- if it grows there, basically you can burn it. You can't burn a building, but that's about the only rule. You can't burn trash and stuff like that," he said.

There is one other rule, according to the Division of Forest Resources -- you can't burn inside protected woodland or within 500 feet of protected woodland between the hours of midnight and 4 p.m. without first obtaining a permit.

That's in "non-high-hazard" counties, including Wayne -- Folks in "high-hazard" Beaufort, Bladen, Camden, Carteret, Chowan, Craven, Currituck, Dare, Duplin, Gates, Hyde, Jones, Onslow, Pamlico, Pasquotank, Perquimans, Tyrrell and Washington counties have tougher burning regulations.

Under normal conditions, permits can be obtained from forest rangers or other state agents with the authority, according to the division's Web site.

In Pikeville, Eureka, Fremont, Mount Olive, Goldsboro and other towns and cities, burning is generally off limits without a permit anyway, Detective Sgt. C.J. Weaver said.

"In towns, you cannot burn unless it's for warmth, food or ceremony," Weaver said.

Of course, towns can have tougher rules, too. Pikeville police Chief Ken Barrett said his town has a "total no-burn policy."

"Just absolutely no burning at all," Barrett said.

In Fremont, Town Administrator Kerry McDuffie said, citizens must first obtain a permit from the fire chief before engaging in any open burning.

"We already have the ordinance in place -- that they have to get the permit from the fire chief before (they burn)," McDuffie said.

But what can they do to you if you are caught breaking the law?

According to the Division of Forest Resources, an open burning violator faces a Class 3 misdemeanor.

State law says a Class 3 misdemeanor is any offense in which a fine or up to 30 days in jail is a possible punishment.