NORTH CAROLINA (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — Thirty counties, including Mecklenburg, are under open burn bans following an increased fire risk.

Despite rain showers across the region on Friday, fire officials say a fire threat remains.

“It doesn’t take much for the smallest ignition source to turn into an out-of-control wildfire,” N.C. Forest Service Public Information Officer Philip Jackson said.

Burning permits for Alexander, Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Buncombe, Caldwell, Catawba, Haywood, Iredell, Lincoln, Madison, Mecklenburg, Mitchell, Watauga, Wilkes and Yancey have been canceled effective 5 p.m. Wednesday.

N.C. Forest Service says this is due to the increased fire risk and the ban is on all open burning.

“We really need people to adhere to that because we are in the midst of fall wildfire season, and with the severe drought that we are seeing in certain areas,” Jackson said.

Open burning includes burning leaves, branches, or other plant material.

“One of the questions we typically get is, ‘Well, can I have a campfire outside?’ And the answer is no, not during the burn ban,” Gaston County Emergency Management Director and Fire Marshal Scott Hunter said.

Since November 5th, Hunter says about a dozen people have called in, alerting emergency management that fires had taken place.

When that happens, he says the fire department visits the location, extinguishes the fire, educates the person about the ban, and the fire marshal will follow suit.

“Things don’t matter until they matter.  I mean, that is the biggest thing.  So, don’t think that just because it’s never happened to you or your neighbor in your area, that it is not going to happen because it is evident that it does happen and that it can happen,” Hunter said.

While a burn ban was not initiated last year, dozens of counties faced bans in 2021.

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The N.C. Forest Service says spring and fall are traditionally wildfire seasons.  A drought only increases the fire threat.

“Until we see significant rainfall in the amount of inches in the areas where burn bans are currently in place, that will remain in effect,” Jackson said.

Anyone caught violating a burn ban can face a $100 fine plus court fees.