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North Carolina firefighters prepare for wildfire season

GREENSBORO, N.C. -- Two dozen people are dead, hundreds more are reported missing and thousands of homes are destroyed as wildfires sweep through wine country in California.

Here in North Carolina, wildfire season begins in just a couple weeks and firefighters in the Triad say what's happening on the West Coast can happen anywhere.

FOX8 talked to firefighters who say conditions in the Triad are better than last year, meaning it's not as dry, but it's not enough for you to ignore preparing for a wildfire.

When a call comes in, firefighters at the Pinecroft Sedgefield Fire Department aim to get to your house within minutes. But in that same time, wildfires can rapidly grow out of control.

"Every second counts," Capt. Derek Carson said.

Conditions may look fine now in the Piedmont, but it can all change in an instant.

"It doesn't take long for an ember or anything to light off and cause more fires to spread," Carson said.

Carson says we got lucky. After a long dry stretch in the Piedmont, the recent rain makes a big difference as we head into wildfire season.

"It all depends on the weather, and that's what they're seeing out west right now is those hot, dry conditions," he said.

It's still not clear what caused the Atlas Fire to tear through California, but according to Carson, humans are to blame for nine out of 10 wildfires. That means almost all of them are preventable.

If you're going to burn leaves or anything else in your yard, first find out if you need a permit to burn. You can check your county's website or call your local fire department for that information.

Never leave a fire unattended and don't toss out lit cigarettes on the ground or while driving; it really can cause roadside fires.

"It can happen anywhere. Once the conditions present themselves," Carson said.

The time to come up with an escape plan with your family is now, not when wildfire season starts. Carson says you should identify two safe ways to escape through your home in case of a fire.