Wildfires serve as reminder about rules on illegal burning

Wildfires serve as reminder about rules on illegal burning

22 February 2011

published by www.jdnews.com

USA — Recent wildfire activity has prompted state environmental officials to remind people that many fires are caused by illegal outdoor burning and could have been prevented.

North Carolina’s open burning rule is one of the state’s oldest air quality regulations, dating back to the early 1970s. The rule sets strict limits on outdoor fires and prohibits the burning of any manmade materials because smoke pollutes the air and can be unhealthy to breathe. However, many residents may be unaware of the limits on outdoor burning or may choose to ignore the rules.

“Many wildfires would never happen if everyone obeyed the state rules on open burning,” said Sheila Holman, director of the state Division of Air Quality. “It is always illegal to burn manmade materials in North Carolina, yet many fires are caused by people burning trash.”

The Division of Air Quality can fine violators up to $25,000 for illegal outdoor burning. Open burning violations are the division’s biggest enforcement issue – accounting for about two-thirds of all air quality complaints as well as half of all violation notices and one-third of all enforcement actions.

North Carolina law prohibits most open burning because the smoke from outdoor fires can cause serious health problems and pollute the air. A study by the Environmental Protection Agency found that backyard burning of paper, plastic and other manmade trash is the largest source of highly toxic dioxin emissions. Under the open burning rule, it is illegal to burn any manmade materials including garbage, paper, cardboard, tires, other rubber products, building materials such as lumber, wire and synthetic materials, asphalt shingles and heavy oils, paints and agricultural chemicals and buildings.

Dry, windy weather has fueled an increase in wildfires statewide, say officials with N.C. Division of Forest Resources. On Monday, state forestry officials reported 130 wildfires, which burned 1,109 acres.

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