4:52 p.m. Hallsboro Volunteer Fire Department is responding to a woods fire located at 5640 Sam Potts Highway. The cause is currently unknown.
Dry conditions and intense heat across 26 counties has led the state to issue a burning ban. Columbus County declared its own ban today (Monday) starting at noon.
“We are encouraging people not to burn outside at all,” said Chase Lancaster, deputy fire marshal for Columbus County. “It’s just too dry and dangerous right now.”
After an exceedingly wet winter and early spring, the area is now running at a rainfall deficit. State officials are warning that a serious drought is possible without significant rainfall in the coming days. Longterm forecasts do not show much promise of precipitation for at least another week. The best chance of local rain will be over the weekend.
The local ban prohibits burning yard debris, leaves, trash or lumber within 100 feet of a structure. The state ban covers everything past 100 feet. Burning permits have been suspended pending some badly-needed rain. Charcoal and gas grills are not covered under the ban, but fire officials encourage folks grilling for the Memorial Day holiday to use some common sense and keep firefighting equipment, including a fire extinguisher, close by.
Violators of the burning ban can face a fine of $100 plus $180 in court costs. If a fire gets out of control, the courts may order restitution for costs associate with extinguishing the blaze. Additional costs may be assessed by the court if neighboring property is damaged by an illegal fire.
State officials have noted that there is still hurricane debris in some undeveloped areas that can easily provide fuel for wildfires. Sunday’s fires in Bladen County involved areas that were flooded and sustained major damage during Hurricane Florence.
The state ban prohibits all open burning and cancels all burning permits in Anson, Beaufort, Bladen, Brunswick, Carteret, Columbus, Craven, Cumberland, Duplin, Greene, Harnett, Hoke, Jones, Lee, Lenoir, Moore, New Hanover, Onslow, Pamlico, Pender, Pitt, Richmond, Robeson, Sampson, Scotland and Wayne counties.