Favorable conditions for a busy wildfire season; North Carolina Forest Service urging caution

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Fire officials are having flashbacks to the fall of 2016 when wildfires burned nearly 60,000 acres across North Carolina.

Sam Griffith, with North Carolina Forest Service’s District 10 office, says this year could be just as bad, if not worse.

The N.C. Forest Service uses readiness plans to determine its daily staffing levels for emergency response resources. They range from 1 to 5. On Oct. 8, the district was at a level 3.

They say high winds, low humidity and the recent dry spell are a dangerous combination.

“A fire can move faster than you can run,” said Griffith, District 10 Service Forester.

That was the case Friday night near Winston-Salem. Meghan Nut came across a brush fire near Transou Road when she was driving home. She says the fire grew incredibly fast in the few minutes it took firefighters to arrive.

“It can move fast and it can overwhelm you fast,” Griffith said.

Griffith says about 75 percent of the fires they respond to are caused by people burning debris and then not staying with the fire.

“They take a break, go inside to get some water, or for whatever reason they are not watching it, and then all of a sudden it’s gone,” Griffith said.

Another common problem is people are quick to assume a day of rain will extinguish any fire danger concerns.

“People say, ‘hey it rained last night, it rained a tenth, a quarter’, when the humidity gets down in the twenties and the wind gets up, that rain is gone,” Griffith said.

If you find yourself in a position where you have to burn, the N.C. Forest Service says always keep an eye on the weather and go in fully prepared.

That means a hose, bucket, shovel for tossing dirt on the fire, and it doesn’t hurt to keep a phone on you to call for backup.

“Go ahead and make that call because it’s not going to cost you anything. It never hurts to have more people than you need,” Griffith said.

District 10 covers 10 counties, including Rockingham, Guilford, Randolph, Davidson, Forsyth, Stokes, Surry, Rowan, Yadkin and Davie.

In September, District 10 responded to 46 fires. In the first week of October, the number was already up to 18.

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