Total Outdoor Burn Ban Continues and Drought Worsens

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The long drought that faces Western North Carolina has created a potential for homes to be threatened by wildland fire. Because of the steep slopes and dry conditions, firefighters need your help to protect your home. Items you can do to make you home firewise are:

1. Keep leaves and needles off your roof and deck. Create a fuel-free area within 3-5 feet of your home’s perimeter. From 5 feet to a minimum of 30 feet out, thin and space vegetation, remove dead leaves and needles, prune shrubs and tree limbs. As the slope increases, the safety zone increases. Keep areas around decks, sheds, fences and swing sets clear of debris and vegetation.

2. To prevent fire spread, trim back branches that overhang structures and prune branches of large trees up to 6 to 10 feet from the ground. Remove plants containing resins, oils, and waxes; make sure organic mulch is at least 5 feet from structures. Choose Firewise plants.

3. Develop, discuss and practice an emergency action plan with everyone in your home. Include details for pets, large animals and livestock. Program cell phones with emergency numbers. Know two ways out of your neighborhood and have a pre-designated meeting place. Have tools such as a shovel, rake, axe, handsaw, or chainsaw available, and maintain an emergency water source. Always leave if you feel unsafe, do not wait to be notified.

4. Identify your home and neighborhood with legible, clearly marked street names and numbers. Make your driveway at least 12 feet wide with a vertical clearance of 15 feet and a slope of less than 5 percent to provide access to emergency vehicles.

5. Embers can collect in small nooks and crannies and ignite combustible materials; radiant heat from flames can crack windows. Use fire-resistant siding such as brick, fiber-cement, plaster or stucco and tempered or double-paned glass windows to protect your home.

6. Eliminate all heat in the wood ashes by placing ashes into a metal container containing water. Allow ashes to soak for several hours before dumping. Do not place ashes in a plastic or cardboard container. If you store ashes, cool them in water first and store only in a metal container with a tight-fitting lid. Place the container outside the home, away from anything that will burn. After dumping the ashes double check for hot coals.

7. Local Volunteer Fire Departments and Firefighters must think about safety and will access conditions as they arrive at a wildland fire. There may be situations and circumstances that may not allow firefighters to protect your home, especially on steep slopes.

8. Firewood and LP Tanks should be 50 feet away from the home and away from combustible material.

9. Make sure your chimney/flu has a spark arrestor for homes utilizing wood for heat. There is some really great information available at

Also, you can contact any of the following local Cherokee County resources for help and assistance and to learn more about having a firewise home and community:

Office of Code Enforcement   828-837-6730

Emergency Management        828-837-5454

North Carolina Forest Service  828-837-5426

Cooperative Extension             828-837-2210