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December 09, 2023

Burning ban still in effect in Alexander; tips given on how to protect homes against wildfire

It’s dry, there’s no doubt about that. There is no rain in the forecast. And Alexander County is included in the 25-county burning ban which is still in effect and began last week, according to Alexander County Ranger Dennis Wahlers with the N.C. Forest Service.

He told The Times how its readers can prepare their homes and properties to make them able to withstand the threat of wildfire.

Survivable Space
Urban interface wildfire is a term that hasn’t been frequently mentioned but is quickly becoming recognizable to homeowners across the state and county. More residents are moving to areas and neighborhoods that are heavily wooded, causing what was once known as wildland fires to become multiple structure fires. That is why it is important that residents do all they can to ensure the safety of life and property. Here are a few tips on things you can do around your home to build a “Survivable Space”; and reduce the possibility of forest fires threatening you, your family and your home.

Defend Your Space In The Interface
Make a fire safety zone around your home. Remove or reduce flammable fuels at least 30 feet from the house.

Don’t Add Fuel To The Fire; Break The “Chain”
• Examine your house and yard. What can catch or carry fire to your home?
• Have nothing flammable within 5 feet of the house. Occasional trees and shrubs should be at least 10 feet from the house.
• Evergreens can catch fire easily and burn quickly. Prune lower limbs, thin out the trees, or remove them from the safety zone.
• Leave yard trees and shrubs no closer than 15-20 feet apart. Prune lower limbs 15 feet from ground.
• Remove limbs overhanging roofs and chimneys.
• Clean gutters and roofs of leaves and needles.
• Store firewood and other combustible materials 30 feet away from the house.
• Use fire resistant building materials.

Be “Homesafe” In The Interface
• Make sure firefighters can find your home. Mark your house location and roads clearly. Can fire trucks get to your home from the road? Do they have enough room to turn around?
• Have and practice an escape route and plan.
• Adhere to Burning Bans.
• Follow state and local burning laws. Obtain proper burning
• Burn safely. Attend to outdoor fires until they are completely safe and dead out.
• Dispose of fireplace ashes in a metal bucket. Soak with water before dumping.
• Keep fire tools handy (garden hose, shovel, rake, and ladder).

Safe Evacuation Tips
• Leave the lights on in your home. If the electrical power does not fail, such lights will call attention to out-of-the-way homes
during hours of darkness.
• Open the damper on your fireplace to help stabilize outside-inside pressure, but close the fireplace screen so sparks will not ignite the room.
• Close outside attic, eaves, and basement vents. This will eliminate the possibility of sparks blowing into hidden areas in the house.
• Shut off any natural gas, LPG, or fuel oil supplies at a point as far from the structure as the plumbing will allow.
• Plan a designated meeting area and inform your family and friends of your location when you arrive.

Court citation issued after local brush fire
As wildfires burn in the western part of the state, the threat of fire danger is very real. However, some local residents have ignored the burning ban and have tried to burn leaves in recent days.

In Alexander County, there was an escaped debris burn fire on Jolly Cemetery Road in the Sugar Loaf Community, according to Alexander County Ranger Dennis Wahlers with the N.C. Forest Service. The fire burned about three-tenths of an acre; however, Sugar Loaf Fire Department and Forest Service members responded and quickly put the fire out. A court citation was issued for a Burning Ban violation, the ranger stated. Also, there were four other Burning Ban violations, for residents who were burning leaves.  Wahlers did not name the violators in these cases.

Governor Pat McCrory stated in a November 14 press release that nearly 1,600 firefighters continue to battle wildfires throughout western North Carolina. Nearly 40,000 acres have been burned in the state by 19 significant fires since October 23. The governor announced that the estimated cost of these fires is more than $10 million.

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