Weaverville Tribune and Asheville Tribune: November 2016
Lake Lure tragedy could happen here
By Heather Berry
Northern Buncombe County – During the height of the wildfires raging to our south, Barnardsville firefighters were called to the Big Ivy area Nov. 12, because a camper was burning wood. According to area firefighters, the worst case scenario hasn’t stopped some residents in northern Buncombe County from ignoring the county-wide open burning ban. The penalty can include fines.
“It seems like every day, there are a few residents trying to burn, whether it’s in a barrel or an open burning with a small patch of leaves. It’s critical right now to follow the open burning ban, because of the length of this drought and the winds,” West Buncombe Fire Department Captain Mark Parker, who encourages the public to dial 911 immediately if they see any open burning.
“Any burning right now, as dry and windy as it is, is dangerous,” Weaverville Fire Department Battalion Chief David Privette. “All it takes is an ember floating through the air and it could land 20 to 30 feet away and that’s all it takes,” he added.
According to Parker, Buncombe County is not immune to dangerous wildfires, which have forced a state of emergency and evacuations in Rutherford and Burke counties.
“It would just take one person to allow a fire to get out of control,” said Parker. “We’ve seen a lot of people, who are ill-prepared in the fire areas because their homes weren’t prepped for fire season,” he added. Parker asks residents to clean up leaf and other yard debris as a wildfire prevention. “Leaf litter makes your home more susceptible to fires,” he continued. “We have things burning now, that normally don’t burn, because of how dry it is.”
Parker said the burning ban is especially vital right now, because many fire departments are sending firefighters to help with North Carolina wildfires, leaving local fire departments more vulnerable than usual. “There are so many fires burning right now in North Carolina, I don’t know exactly how long we will be needed, but there is a fire that just started in McDowell County,” said Parker.
The West Buncombe Fire Department has been sending one to two firefighters daily to help around Party Rock.
The Barnardsville Fire Department sent five fireman to help with the wildfires. Barnardsville Fire Chief Kevin Mundy said most people have followed the burning ban, and the department hasn’t had any real trouble with campers at Big Ivy. He said the open burning ban, however, is still vital, because of the drought.
Weaverville is still getting calls for open burning. “We’ve had a few people trying to burn debris, or have a campfire in their yard,” said Privette. “We haven’t had anything get out of control,” he added. According to Privette, residents have been cooperative in extinguishing the fires when the fireman ask.
The Reems Creek Fire Department posted a clear warning on its Facebook page reminding residents of the burning ban. “We have had equipment and personnel on the fire scene since Saturday,” stated the Reems Creek Fire Department Facebook post dated Nov. 16. “Our resources are stretched thin, so we beg, please NO OPEN BURNING during the ban.”
Local fire departments are collecting donations for the firefighters fighting North Carolina wildfires. “We are taking any non-perishables that can last awhile,’ said Parker. “We are taking any bottled water, Gatorade and things like that, because we can always use these. Until this drought breaks, we really don’t know how much we will be using,” Parker added.