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Newsdesk - 2015

With fall fire season approaching, N.C. Forest Service offers tips to prevent wildfires
October 1, 2015

Oct. 4-10 is Fire Prevention Week

RALEIGH – As fall wildfire season approaches, the N.C. Forest Service encourages North Carolinians to heed the call of National Fire Prevention Week, Oct. 4-10, and take steps to ensure careful burning of leaves and yard debris.

Fall wildfire season typically lasts from mid-October until mid-December, the time of year when people do a lot of yard work that may include burning leaves and yard debris. These fires sometimes escape and start wildfires.

There are many factors to consider before burning any debris. The N.C. Forest Service encourages residents considering debris burning to contact their local county forest ranger. The ranger can offer technical advice and explain the best options to help maximize the safety to people, property and the forest.

“Careless debris burning is the top cause of wildfires in North Carolina,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “You can reduce the risk of wildfire by not burning on dry, windy days, and by keeping a careful watch over a fire until it is out.”

The state Forest Service urges people to follow these tips to protect property and prevent wildfires:

  • Consider alternatives to burning. Some types of debris, such as leaves, grass and stubble, may be of more value if they are not burned,but used for mulch instead.
  • Check local burning laws. Some communities allow burning only during specified hours. Others forbid it entirely.
  • Make sure you have a valid permit. You can obtain a burning permit at any Forest Service office or authorized permitting agent, or online at
  • Keep an eye on the weather. Don’t burn on dry, windy days.
  • Local fire officials can recommend a safe way to burn debris.Don’t pile vegetation on the ground. Instead, place it in a cleared area and contained in a screened receptacle, away from overhead branches and wires.
  • Household trash should be hauled away to a trash or recycling station. It is illegal to burn anything other than yard debris.
  • Be sure you are fully prepared before burning. To control the fire, you will need a hose, bucket, steel rake and a shovel for tossing dirt on the fire. Keep a phone nearby, too.
  • Never use kerosene, gasoline, diesel fuel or other flammable liquids to speed debris burning.
  • Stay with your fire until it is completely out.
  • These same tips hold true for campfires and barbeques as well. Douse burning charcoal briquettes or campfires thoroughly with water. When soaked; stir the coals and soak them again. Be sure they are out cold and carefully feel to be sure they are extinguished. Never dump hot ashes or coals into a wooded area.
  • Burning agricultural residue and forestland litter: In addition to the rules above, a fire line should be plowed around the area to be burned. Large fields should be separated into small plots for burning one at a time. Before doing any burning in a wooded area, contact your county ranger, who will weigh all factors, explain them and offer technical advice.

Studies have shown that taking these and other measures can reduce the possibility of wildfires.
For more information on ways you can prevent wildfires and loss of property, log onto
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Keep your Independence Day celebration safe with these fire safety tips
July 1, 2015

RALEIGH – Officials with the N.C. Forest Service encourage people to celebrate Independence Day by viewing public fireworks displays rather than risk starting fires by setting off their own fireworks.

“Many wildfires that occur during this time of the year start due to the careless use of Class C fireworks such as sparklers, fountains, glow worms, smoke devices and trick noisemakers,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler.
“With many free fireworks shows planned across the state, there are a lot of options for enjoying the July 4th holiday that reduce the risk to our forestlands and personal property.”

If using your own fireworks, here are some safety tips:

  • Don’t use fireworks such as ground spinners, firecrackers, round spinners, Roman candles, bottle rockets and mortars, which are not legal in North Carolina.
  • Do not use fireworks near woods or any combustible material.
  • Make sure fireworks are always used with adult supervision.
  • Follow the instructions provided with the fireworks.
  • Do not use under the influence of alcohol.
  • Always use in a large, open, and preferably, paved area or near a body of water.
  • Have a rake or shovel and a bucket or two of water on hand.
  • Monitor the area for several hours after use.

Exercising care in residential areas in wooded locations is also important, said State Forester David Lane.

“In addition to taking measures to use fireworks safely, campfires or grills should never be left unattended and should never be started with gasoline,” Lane said. It is also important when disposing of ashes to never put them in a paper bag or other flammable container, but to instead place them in an outside metal container or bury them in mineral soil in your garden. If you live in an area with organic soils, however, keep in mind that peat can catch fire, Lane said. Never store ashes in your garage, on your deck or in a wooded area. Double-check ashes and coals before throwing them away to make sure they won’t start a fire.

For more information on fire safety, contact your county ranger or Brian Haines, NCFS public information officer, at 919-857-4828, or go to NC Firewise or Forest Service

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Western N.C. foresters seeing two pests emerging in area
June 24, 2015

RALEIGH – The N.C. Forest Service is reporting outbreaks of two forest pests that have already had significant impacts on trees in the western part of the state. “Oaks in Western North Carolina, particularly red oaks, are losing leaves as a result of oak leaf blister, a disease caused by a fungus,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “In addition, foresters are reporting damage from yellow-poplar leaf mining weevil, which is causing widespread browning and defoliation on yellow-poplar trees.”

Most years, oak leaf disease is of minor consequence and fluctuations are typically associated with early spring weather, said State Forester David Lane. “Oak tree leaves will have light green, yellow or white leaf spots. As the disease progresses, the spots form yellow or brown puckered lesions or blisters,” Lane said. “When the infection is severe, the entire leaf yellows, curls and drops prematurely.”

Chemical control is not needed, as the disease affects only the leaves and, as with most defoliating pests, a single year of defoliation will not affect the long-term health of the tree, Lane said. Landowners are instead encouraged to maintain general tree health, such as watering during dry periods.

The yellow-poplar leaf mining weevil is damaging mostly yellow-poplars, but it can also attack magnolias and sassafras trees, Lane said. Adult weevils feed on leaf tissue in April and May. They then mate, lay eggs, and when the immature weevils emerge in early summer, they mine the leaf, or feed on the internal tissues. As a result, the leaves die and turn brown.

Most years, infestations are not widespread and are generally not considered a threat to yellow-poplar timber, Lane said. Outbreaks have been recorded in the Eastern U.S. since 1960. During the 1960s, outbreaks similar to the ones being seen now caused significant foliage loss on yellow-poplar in the Appalachian Mountain region, Lane said.

Foliage destruction temporarily reduces the aesthetic values of landscape trees. To manage the pest, promoting general tree health is best. The outbreak should subside on its own, especially with the help of native wasps, which destroy up to 50 percent of the weevil larvae, Lane said.

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Two N.C. Forest Service fallen firefighters honored
June 8, 2015

RALEIGH – Two men who died while serving with the N.C. Forest Service were honored in May during the N.C. Fallen Firefighters Foundation’s 10th annual memorial service. They are Halbert Campbell of Kinston, a former pilot and operations worker, and Jimmy Halliburton of Morganton, an educational ranger.

“It was great to see the honor and respect paid to those that had fallen and to the families that lost loved ones in the performance of their duty,” said David Lane, state forester.

Campbell was the first pilot hired by the N.C. Forest Service and worked in the Piedmont region. Later in his career, he transferred to the coastal region and worked in the operations room. On Nov. 17, 1973, he completed his work day providing fire support in the Forest Service’s Whiteville District, went home and suffered a fatal heart attack.

Halliburton began his career with the N.C. Forest Service’s youthful offenders program, and later worked at Tuttle Educational State Forest in Lenoir. On Aug. 13, 2014, he and other Tuttle employees were clearing trees at the forest following a wind event. Halliburton was removing a tree from the roadside when the tree, which was under pressure, snapped back and fatally injured him. Because road clearing was needed for public safety and access for emergency response, the N.C. Fallen Firefighters Foundation’s board of directors approved Halliburton to be recognized as one of the fallen.

Campbell’s and Halliburton’s names have been added to the Fallen Firefighters Memorial in Raleigh’s Nash Square. They are among more than 20 N.C. Forest Service employees who have died in the line of duty.

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N.C. Forest Service centennial celebration is June 6 at Jordan Lake Educational State Forest Exhibits, activities on tap for open house
May 27, 2015

NCFS Centennial Celebration Logo

RALEIGH – The public is invited to celebrate the N.C. Forest Service’s 100th anniversary Saturday, June 6, at Jordan Lake Educational State Forest. The open house will take place from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. There will be firefighting equipment on display, exhibits and activities for kids, such as tree-cookie necklaces and ornaments. The Jordan Lake Educational State Forest log cabin will be open for people to walk through, and visitors can try their hand at using a crosscut saw to cut a tree cookie off a log. Big Smokey, the Forest Service’s 21-foot talking Smokey Bear, will also be there to greet visitors and deliver his wildfire prevention message.

“Celebrating our 100th anniversary at one of our educational state forests is completely in tune with the N.C. Forest Service’s mission of protecting, managing and promoting the state’s forest resources,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “Our state forests are important for teaching the public about the advantages of good forest management, as well as the economic and ecological benefits of our forests.”

The General Assembly created the N.C. Forest Service in 1915, and John Simcox Holmes was appointed the first state forester. He was given specific wildfire-control responsibilities in addition to his work cataloging and assessing the state’s forests.

“The N.C. Forest Service has gone through many changes throughout its 100 years, but it still continues its core missions of wildfire control and the protection of the abundant and important forest resources of the state,” Troxler said.

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As Weed Lane Fire winds down, law enforcement pinpoints cause as escaped debris burn
April 5, 2015

Suppression forces with the North Carolina Forest Service have begun demobilizing from the Weed Lane Fire in Buncombe County. Firefighters and equipment from across the state have been battling the blaze, which burned 740 acres in Buncombe County, destroying one home and damaging five more.

"The fire is 100% contained now," said Incident Commander Robert Smith. "This means we can turn management of it back over to local personnel." Local personnel will continue to monitor the fire for several more days until they are certain it will not flare back up.

Smith went on to add that agency law enforcement officers have determined the cause of the fire to be an escaped debris burn, and that the responsible party has been issued a citation.

The debris burn was conducted on Monday, March 30 and escaped the next day. Smith noted that rain had fallen a day or two prior to the debris burning and the landowner thought his fire was safely out. Smith also said that it is common for heat to remain in ashes for days and even weeks under the right conditions. Escaped debris burns made up nearly half of all wildfires responded to during the most recent state fiscal year, July 1, 2013 to June 30, 2014, Smith noted.

The Smith Incident Management Team will be the final statewide resources to be released from the fire and will turn over command to the Local District on Monday, April 6.

For additional information on the Weed Lane Fire, go to Inciweb (, a federal website maintained for wildfire and all-hazard risk incident information.

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When the fire is out forest hazards will remain
April 3, 2015

The 740-acre Weed Lane Fire near Black Mountain is now 90 percent contained and some demobilization of incident personnel is underway. The tenth inch of rain that fell on the fire last night was very beneficial to firefighter's efforts, and more rain forecasted tonight and next week could assist with the efforts to extinguish the fire. This is good news for the Ridgecrest area and surrounding communities. However, as with any wildfire event there are longer lasting effects that can cause concerns.

Weakened standing dead trees known as snags, burned-out stump holes, loss of natural ground cover, and unstable logs, rocks and boulders collectively create a number of safety hazards to residents and visitors hiking or mountain biking the trails impacted by the fire. When trails re-open, recreationists using those trails should maintain a high level of situational awareness.

"As we continually tell our firefighters; look up, down and all around to make sure your environment is safe", said Andy Meadows, the Incident Management Team's Safety Officer. "The number one person accountable for your safety is you."

Anyone using fire-impacted trails should observe and heed all trail signage posted by private or agency land managers. It is also a good idea to stay on trails and not walk or ride into areas blackened by fire in order to minimize risks to personal safety. Any observations of trails blocked by woody or rock debris should be reported to property managers.

Today's operations included extinguishing remaining hotspots near containment lines and mitigating fire suppression impacts. Hand crews were busy installing water control structures on containment dozer lines and hand lines. Seed and straw is being used to cover bare soil areas near streams to prevent erosion and overland runoff reaching streams.

For additional information on the Weed Lane Fire, go to Inciweb (, a federal website maintained for wildfire and all-hazard risk incident information.

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Firefighters Make Good Progress on Weed Lane Fire
April 1, 2015

The 752 acre wildfire has calmed down considerably since its ignition and blazing runs up the mountain on Tuesday afternoon. Overcast skies, cooler temperatures, and higher humidity have greatly reduced fire activity and assisted the firefighters in achieving 84 percent containment as of noon today. With rain in the forecast Thursday and Friday and fuels continuing to moisten, fire managers expect the fire activity to diminish while hand crews complete containment lines and rehabilitation of dozer lines and other natural resources.

The smaller regional incident management team in charge of the fire will be replaced by a state team that will assume control before night shift operations commence. The expanded team will work to close-out the fire by the end of the holiday weekend.

Although the fire itself poses a much lesser threat to communities in the Ridgecrest area, the fire aftermath of loosened soils and rocks, smoldering stump holes, as well as burned and weakened tree snags represent a real safety hazard for trail hikers and mountain bikers. For this reason, the Ridgecrest Conference Center has closed its trails and trail heads for the long holiday weekend. This will give fire crews time to identify and mitigate hazards on the trails bordering or traversing the fire footprint. The U.S. Forest Service did lift its trail closure order on the Pisgah National Forest, Grandfather Ranger District earlier this afternoon. This action ensures an ample number of trails will be open for weekend recreation.

While the Weed Lane Fire is winding down, Forest Service officials continue to remind residents and visitors to the North Carolina mountain region that spring wildfire season is well underway and will continue until forestland leaf-out occurs sometime in May. For this reason, care should be taken when using fire while drier fuel conditions exist.

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N.C. Forest Service announces award winners
March 20, 2015

RALEIGH – Staff from the N.C. Forest Service’s Person County office and a far-western North Carolina district were honored recently with the agency’s annual Golden Nut awards.

Each year, the N.C. Forest Service’s nursery program asks employees across the state to collect seed of more than 50 different species of trees to help keep the nursery, and consequently the state’s forests, growing.

The Golden Nut awards are given for the largest collections by a county and by a district, which is a group of counties. For the first time in the six-year history of the awards, the winning county was not in the winning district.

While Person County took the prize for a county, District 9, which is in the western-most portion of the state, took the district honor. District 9 consists of Cherokee, Jackson, Clay, Macon, Graham, Swain and Haywood counties.

James West, head of the Nursery and Tree Improvement Program, came up with the awards to help motivate the seed collectors.

In winning the award for the third time, Person County collected 7,257 pounds of seed. District 9 is a first-time winner, collecting a total of 14,098 pounds. The amount is a big accomplishment, West said, given the terrain and the species mix that the district staff has to work with.

Statewide, N.C. Forest Service workers collected 73,550 pounds of seed and 1,257 bushels of walnuts. Many of the species collected were in short supply in recent years. To learn more about the N.C. Forest Service nursery program, visit or the NCFS seedling store at

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N.C. Forest Service finds laurel wilt in Duplin County
January 23, 2015

RALEIGH – The N.C. Forest Service has confirmed that laurel wilt, a devastating disease of redbay and other plants in the laurel family, has been identified in Duplin County in an area near Rose Hill.

The disease has been identified across the Southeast in portions of South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. In North Carolina, it was first discovered in Bladen, Columbus, Pender and Sampson counties in 2011. Additional identifications were made in Brunswick County in 2012 and New Hanover County in 2013.

In North Carolina, sassafras, pondberry, pondspice, swampbay and spicebush also fall in the laurel family and could be affected by this disease.

Laurel wilt is introduced into trees by the non-native redbay ambrosia beetle. It is believed the pest can travel about 20 miles per year naturally, but can spread more quickly when the fungus-carrying beetles are transported in wood, such as firewood.

Homeowners with dead redbay trees are encouraged to keep cut trees on their property. Dead trees should not be removed to a landfill or off site. Proper disposal of redbay includes leaving wood on site, cutting or chipping wood on site, or burning wood on site in compliance with local and state ordinances.

In areas where burning is allowed, a permit can be obtained from the N.C. Forest Service through a local burn permit agent, a county ranger’s office, or online at Click on "Burning Permits" under the "Quick Links" section.

About laurel wilt
Female redbay ambrosia beetles bore into trees, carrying a fungus with them. Once the beetle is inside the tree, she makes tunnels and lays eggs. Fungal spores begin to grow in these tunnels, blocking the movement of water from the tree roots and causing the tree to wilt and eventually die from lack of water. This fungus is extremely fast-acting, and trees typically die within a month of infection. Beetles do not feed on the wood of the tree; rather, they feed upon the fungus “farm” they created.

Symptoms of laurel wilt disease include drooping reddish or purplish foliage. Evidence of redbay ambrosia beetle attack may be found in the main stem; often strings of chewed wood, called frass toothpicks, can be seen sticking out of entry holes. Removal of tree bark reveals black streaking in the outer wood.

This destructive pest was first discovered in Georgia in 2002. It is believed the fungus arrived in the U.S. along with the redbay ambrosia beetle in wooden crating material from Southeast Asia.

The detection of laurel wilt in Duplin County was reported by N.C. Forest Service personnel, and confirmed by N.C. State University’s Plant Disease and Insect Clinic laboratory.

To learn more about laurel wilt, go to and follow the links under the Forest Health section, or call Kelly Oten, forest health monitoring coordinator with the N.C. Forest Service, at 919-553-6178 ext. 223.

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This page updated: Monday, November 14, 2016 16:09

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