ROCKINGHAM — Richmond County is under a burning ban until further notice, according to the N.C. Forest Service.
State Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler issued the ban on open burning for 22 counties Tuesday, which also includes: Alleghany, Anson, Ashe, Cabarrus, Caswell, Davidson, Davie, Forsyth, Guilford, Iredell, Mecklenburg, Montgomery, Randolph,Rockingham, Rowan, Stanly, Stokes, Surry, Union, Wilkes and Yadkin counties.
The total number of counties under a ban is now 47.
In addition to the ban, which went into effect at 5 p.m., all burning permits have been canceled and no more permits will be issued until the ban is lifted, according to a statement from Troxler’s office. Violations carry a $100 fine plus court costs of $180.
The commissioner’s office said the ban “is necessary because of the dry weather conditions and the potential for the increase in human-caused wildfires in the region.”
More than 3,000 wildfires have scorched nearly 20,000 acres of state-protected lands this year, officials say. Almost half of those have been in the mountains.
Just this month, two fires — the Party Rock fire near Lake Lure and the Chestnut Knob fire in South Mountains State Park — have burned more than 14,000 acres.
An evening summary sent out Tuesday shows there are 11 fires or fire complexes affecting North Carolina.
Nearly 3,000 personnel are working to contain the blazes, including some from Richmond County. Earl Graves, who was assigned to the Tellico fire in Swain County, returned Tuesday.
“Fire experts with the N.C. Forest Service feel the current drought situation and the increase in available forest fuels makes it necessary to increase the number of counties under the burn ban,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “We want to be proactive in our approach and take appropriate action to prevent the potential for human-caused wildfires.”
Ranger Matt Gordon said the Forest Service responded to three fires in Richmond County on Tuesday.
The first was a half-acre fire on Green Lake Road that was caused from someone burning debris.
Two others — one near the intersection of U.S. 220 and N.C. 73, burning 2 acres, another where U.S. 74 Business joins the bypass — were caused by pieces coming from vehicle exhaust pipes, like the on on U.S. 1 Nov. 15.
The Forest Service offers a few facts about the law regarding the ban on open burning:
• The burn ban does not apply to cooking fires such as grills or outdoor cookers.
• The ban does not apply to a fire within 100 feet of an occupied dwelling. County fire marshals have jurisdiction over open burning within 100 feet of an occupied dwelling. The N.C. Forest Service has advised county fire marshals of the burning ban and asked for their consideration of also implementing a burning ban. In addition, other local ordinances and air quality regulations may also impact open burning.
• If a fire within that 100-foot area escapes containment, a North Carolina forest ranger may take reasonable steps to extinguish or control it. The person responsible for setting the fire may be responsible for reimbursing the N.C. Forest Service for any expenses related to extinguishing it.
• Open burning includes burning leaves, branches and other plant material. In all cases, it is illegal to burn trash, lumber, tires, newspapers, plastics or other non-vegetative materials.
• Outdoor burning is also prohibited in areas covered by Code Orange or Code Red air quality forecasts.
Local fire departments and law enforcement officers are assisting the N.C. Forest Service in enforcing the burn ban, officials say.
Reach William R. Toler at 910-817-2675 and follow him on Twitter @William_r_toler.
Richmond County is one of 47 across the state currently under an open burning ban until further notice.