Officials warn of fire dangers during dry period in COVID-19 pandemic

Enhanced fire risk

WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Dry weather prompted the National Weather Service to issue an enhanced fire danger designation for all of southeastern North Carolina on Friday.

Dry conditions, low relative humidity, and gusty winds were elements the U.S. Forest and National Weather Services offices use to determine the risk.

“I think the driest conditions each afternoon are going to be today,” said Steve Pfaff, a meteorologist for the NWS. “We’re going to see this relative humidities during each afternoon slowly increase until we get our next big chance of rain by early next week.”

Dry, combustible grass and debris will have an easier time burning. Gusty winds providing a supply of oxygen and a path for open fires. With no rain in the forecast this weekend, meteorologists at the National Weather Service say they’ll be closely monitoring the situation.

“We coordinate with forestry, first of all, to determine what the risk is with fuels," Pfaff said. “We look at a minimum relative humidity each day, and what the wind gusts going to be.”

Wilmington Fire Department officials added their voice to the no-burn message. A long-standing ordinance in the City of Wilmington prohibits outdoor burning with the exception of cooking.

“It’s just not a good idea to be burning at all,” said Wendy King, Wilmington Fire Department’s Risk Reduction coordinator. "If you are in the city of Wilmington, you don’t have a choice, there is no outdoor burning.”

King added the current COVID-19 climate adds additional concern. A necessary lack of social distancing when responding to an inferno puts firefighters at risk for contracting the virus.

New Hanover and surrounding counties require a permit for outdoor burning. If you see someone who is burning illegally, you are advised to report it to the fire department or call 9-1-1.

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