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We are entering the spring wildfire season, so if you are planning on doing any outdoor burning, you must have a burn permit before you can get started.

The free burn permits are required in all areas of the state by law until May 15. You can get one by contacting your local Division of Forestry office. Permits are generally good for 24 hours and can be issued for weekend burning.

As we saw this weekend, warmer weather, low humidity, and high winds can contribute to small fires getting quickly out of control. When these conditions exist, the state may not issue a burn permit for safety reasons.

Last year, the Division of Forestry recorded the lowest number of wildland fires since 1927. There were 639 wildfires that burned 9,033 acres. Officials credit increased efforts in fire prevention and suppression and landowners getting burn permits for playing a major role in that effort.

"We're hoping to see a continuation of that trend this year and need our citizens' help," said state forester Jere Jeter. "Burning leaves and brush that has accumulated around the yard or using fire to clear an old field can be an efficient way to get rid of such vegetation. However, it is very important that citizens practice safe outdoor burning. Obtaining a burn permit in advance of outdoor burning is our way of making the public aware of those recommendations and helping them know when, where, and how it is safe to burn."

More than 377,000 permits were issued last year for outdoor burning of brush and leaves, untreated wood waste, and burning to clear land.

Once you get a burn permit, fire officials offer these safety tips:

  • Establish a control line around the fire, down to bare soil before conducting the burn
  • Notify neighbors and local fire departments in advance as a courtesy.
  • Have tools on hand such as a leaf rake and garden hose or bucket of water to help control the fire.
  • Watch for changing weather conditions as winds can blow the fire in the wrong direction.
  • Always stay with your fire until it is completely out. It is not only the smart thing to do, but it is also illegal to leave an open fire unattended.
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