Area burn bans lifted; risks remain

By Tom Joyce -

Recent rainfall has led to burning bans being lifted in Surry and Carroll counties, but the area is not out of the woods yet as far as fire dangers, officials warn.

While much-needed precipitation has alleviated crackling-dry conditions, a change in the weather could result in the same situation with the ground cover unless further rain occurs, Mount Airy Fire Chief Zane Poindexter said Wednesday.

“It’s not going to take long, if we don’t get some rain, for the top layer of brush and woodlands to get back to that dry state,” Poindexter said of the type of scenario that sparked wildfires in western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee. “It won’t take long for us to get right back to where we were,” Poindexter said, “to where we have to be cautious.”

This is a concern with colder and drier conditions on the way along with low humidity — unwelcome conditions for firefighters.

For now though, bans on open-air burning have ceased.

“It was officially lifted two days ago,” Poindexter said on the one for Surry County, which was imposed by the N.C. Forest Service along with bans in other counties in the western part of the state.

An emergency situation could re-occur — “it just depends on the weather we get,” he said.

The long passage of time before the recent rains had made conditions so dry the Mount Airy Fire Department had to cancel a controlled burn scheduled in November in order to prevent sparks or cinders possibly spreading to wooded areas.

Poindexter said the lifting of the outdoor burn ban in Surry does not affect an ongoing provision in Mount Airy. The city has a section built in to its code of ordinances prohibiting bonfires or fires for the purpose of burning rubbish, trash or leaves. This also pertains to the burning of trash, shavings, etc., in streets.

An exception to the city’s outdoor burning regulations is fires in barbecue pits.

Virginia counties mixed

A burn ban enacted for Carroll County, Virginia, on Nov. 14 was rescinded Tuesday, while a ban remained in effect Wednesday in Patrick County, according to the Patrick Sheriff’s Office.

In updating the situation in Carroll, county Emergency Management Coordinator Everett Lineberry said precipitation in the last few days along with cool temperatures and cloud cover had decreased the fire hazard.

But Lineberry echoed the same concerns as the Mount Airy fire chief regarding the potential for further danger.

“Despite the recent rainfall, the region continues to be in a moderate drought status,” the Carroll official cautioned. “Those who choose to engage in open-air burning are encouraged to never leave a fire unattended and to refrain from burning in windy conditions.”

Lineberry added that the Carroll County Department of Emergency Management appreciates the cooperation of all citizens in helping to prevent fires that destroy lives, property and wildlife areas.

Tom Joyce may be reached at 336-415-4693 or on Twitter @Me_Reporter.

By Tom Joyce

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