Controlled burn draws first-responders to East Rockingham

By Kevin Spradlin
PeeDeePost.com

EAST ROCKINGHAM — The emergency call for help was reported to the Richmond County Emergency Services at 7:04 p.m. Tuesday.

The location was on private land between Central and Rohanen avenues near Rohanen Middle School. Firefighters from East Rockingham Fire Department and the North Carolina Forest Service were immediately deployed by dispatchers to respond to the area.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com Matt Gordon, county ranger with the North Carolina Forest Service, speaks Tuesday night with a homeowner along Central Avenue in East Rockingham about his legal controlled burn.

Kevin Spradlin | PeeDeePost.com
Matt Gordon, county ranger with the North Carolina Forest Service, speaks Tuesday night with a homeowner along Central Avenue in East Rockingham about his legal controlled burn.

The lights from fire trucks and other first-responders lit up the neighborhood — all for nothing. There was no emergency. Instead, firefighters and Matt Gordon, assistant county ranger with the state Forest Service found a homeowner who was burning leaves and small tree limbs in his backyard — a perfectly legal thing to do.

North Carolina Forest Service regulations state that residents are able to burn native vegetation — that is, things grown on their land — between 4 p.m. and midnight without a permit. While Division of Air Quality rules differ, it’s his agency’s rules that County Ranger Matt Gordon followed when speaking with the homeowner.

State law does not require a property owner to notify the Forest Service or the local fire department when burning, but it’s good practice, Gordon said.

“That way if someone does call 911, we’re not sent out there,” he said.

Gordon said his agency services as as the county fire marshal for law enforcement purposes in Richmond County, excluding Hamlet and Rockingham, cities which have their own outdoor burning ordinances.

Short of notification of the state agency or local fire department, “I have to come” when called, Gordon said.

“It’s just what I have to do.”

Gordon said with or without a permit, state law requires someone to tend the fire at all times. The resident along Central Avenue on Tuesday was, Gordon said, and had a water hose and rake nearby.

“If you leave your fire unattended, you can get fined for that,” he said.

Filed in: Featured News, Latest Headlines, News, Public safety, Rockingham

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