The April 16 tornadoes shook homes, flattened structures and uprooted trees. They also caused what was previously illegal to be made legal — at least temporarily —under a change to burning announced by the N.C. Department of Forest Resources.
On the heels of last week’s signing of Executive Order 89 by Gov. Beverly Perdue to provide relief for farmers to remove agricultural debris the tornadoes caused, that same kind of relief has been extended for the next month to all affected residents, Forestry officials said.
Perdue’s order stated, in part, that farmers should move debris to the edge of their property to facilitate its removal and disposal. In the event that was impossible, “farmers may dispose of the debris in an appropriate manner on the property, consistent with any applicable local ordinances and state laws or regulations.” The order notes that farmers should coordinate with the N.C. Forestry Service “to determine if burning of debris is in any manner inconsistent with federal, state and local law.”
In an email this week to regional and district foresters, Virgil O’Neal, law enforcement chief for the N.C. Division of Forest Resources, informed Forestry officials exactly what the order would mean for NCDFR — a temporary change in how burning is handled.
DFR permits, just as they were prior to the April 16 storms, are still required for any burning done in the state under the protection of DFR and within 500 feet of woodland.
However, through June 1, storm-related material can be burned with a permit in the affected counties. DFR will write permits until that date for those storm-related materials, including houses, processed wood and piles of storm-related debris.
Sampson County ranger Grant Jones said Wednesday he had not yet notified burn permit agents, but would be informing them of the change.
“This is a big change from our past trainings with (the Division of Air Quality) and the DFR (law enforcement) branch training, in which only wood vegetation grown on site can be burned,” O’Neal stated. “I know that this will be a difficult and major undertaking by the districts and county staff, to re-train burn permit agents that they will be allowed to issue permits until June 1, 2011 for what up to now has been an illegal burn.”
Jones conceded it would be a difficult task to operate completely against training for little more than a month.
“We can write permits for storm-related debris, wood structures that have been damaged and that sort of thing,” said Jones. “Before, that was a violation of DAQ. Over the years, we’ve had people ask if they could have a permit to burn their tobacco barn and we told them we can’t, because it’s an air quality issue.”
Burn permit agents, of which there are numerous spread out around Sampson, have been taught and trained the same way. That now changes for the next month.
“It’s tough to train one way and then have to do it another way,” said Jones. “I tend to think if it’s not broke, don’t try to fix it.”
However, Jones said he wants to facilitate those seeking to rid themselves of storm-related debris, in hopes residents who did not have damage would not abuse the temporary procedural change.
In addition to the burn permit issuing offices many my already know, including the Cooperative Extension Service, Emergency Management Office and the Forestry office, all in the Clinton area, there are a number of other options in the county where a burn permit can be obtained.
Numerous local businesses across the county are registered burn permit agents. Some of them include T&P Amoco in Newton Grove, McDaniel Mercantile in Roseboro, Melvin’s General Merchandise in Harrells, Wilson Store in Plain View and Autryville Fire Department. Permits can also be procured online, at www.dfr.state.nc.us.
Jones said approximately 3,000 burning permits are issued in Sampson every year, with just a small percentage being online. However, that service began just a few years ago, and has already doubled in the amount of people taking advantage of it locally.
A few years ago, there were around 100 people who applied for permits. That number jumped to around 130 the next year, and again to about 190 last year. So far this year, through four months, there have already been 88 burn permits issued online in Sampson.
“I’ve seen (the amount) increase with online permits,” said Jones, noting no real spike throughout the year, but a constant flow. “Most burning takes place when the weather is nice, around spring and summer, and in the fall, with people raking leaves.”
Jones said residents seeking more information on burning, the temporary change or the location of the permit agent nearest them, can call the local N.C. Forestry office in Sampson, at 592-4515.
“Again this change will only last until June 1, 2011 and at that time we will revert back to standard rules of DFR and DAQ,” O’Neal stated. “This situation has happened in North Carolina a number of times during my career with DFR, and will more than likely happen in the future.”
Salvaging and safety
The N.C. Division of Forest Resources is encouraging people to be safe by inspecting their trees for damage if they have not already.
Although trees may look severely damaged, restorative pruning and care may increase the chance they regain their original health and beauty. Damaged trees should be inspected by a tree care professional and most tree work should be done only by arborists trained and equipped to work safely in trees, according to the DFR.
Jones said his office would look at woods and tree damage if requested, but would likely similarly refer citizens to a tree professional.
“If we have requests, we will go out and look at it,” said Jones. “If they are yard trees, big old trees in the front or back yard and are for aesthetics, we would probably refer them to an arborist to see if they can be salvaged. If it is a pine tree grown for profit, they should probably talk to a registered forester or a consultant. We assist landowners, but basically, with all our forest management, we recommend a registered forester. We don’t estimate value or volume, and we don’t want to take work away from them.”
To learn more about certified arborists in your area, visit the International Society of Arboriculture at www.treesaregood.com, the American Society of Consulting Arborists at www.asca-consultants.org or the Tree Care Industry Association at www.treecareindustry.org.
For advice on proper tree care and tree assessment following a storm, contact the local Forestry office at 592-4515. More information can also be found by visiting http://dfr.nc.gov/ and following the links to “Why Hire an Arborist” under the Urban and Community Forestry heading. Other safety tips for disposing of trees can also be found on the DFR site.
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137, ext. 121, or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.