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Outdoor burning bans lifted in many counties, not Mecklenburg

Smoke from a 1,000 acre wildfire in South Mountains State Park billows over Baptist Camp Road. The fire’s smoke west of Charlotte blanketed the city on Nov. 11.
Smoke from a 1,000 acre wildfire in South Mountains State Park billows over Baptist Camp Road. The fire’s smoke west of Charlotte blanketed the city on Nov. 11. jsimmons@charlotteobserver.com

The state has lifted outdoor burning bans for most of the Charlotte region and mountains, but Mecklenburg County’s ban will remain at least through the weekend.

Fire experts with the N.C. Forest Service said recent rains have helped reduce fire danger in the N.C. mountains, prompting the agency to lift its ban on open burning for 32 counties effective 5 p.m. Friday.

Charlotte-area counties where the state said its burn bans were lifted included Cabarrus, Catawba, Cleveland, Gaston, Iredell, Lincoln, Mecklenburg and Union. But Mecklenburg’s ban imposed by county Fire Marshal Ted Panagiotopoulos is still in place.

The fire marshal “will reevaluate based on the weather we get this weekend,” the county told the Observer Saturday.

The N.C. Piedmont, meanwhile, received significantly less rain, and fire experts were less comfortable with fuel conditions there, so the burn ban remains for 15 additional counties, including Stanly and Rowan, forest service officials said Friday.

“Despite the recent rain, the N.C. Forest Service has noted that not all areas received the soaking rain needed to fully mitigate fuel conditions,” N.C. Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler said. “They would like some additional time to assess fire conditions in the Piedmont counties currently under the ban.”

The N.C. Forest Service continues to evaluate the need for the ban daily, Troxler said.

Also due to the wildfires that have burned more than 73,000 acres in Western North Carolina this fall:

▪  The N.C. Division of Parks and Recreation continues to ban campfires and open cooking fires at all of its parks west of Interstate 95. South Mountains State Park remains closed due to wildfires. Chimney Rock State Park has reopened, except for the Rumbling Bald climbing access.

▪  The U.S. Forest Service continues to prohibit campfires anywhere in the backcountry on federal park land, even for cooking. Campers must use camp stoves for cooking in the backcountry.

▪  The National Park Service and Appalachian Trail Conservancy have imposed fire restrictions along the Appalachian National Scenic Trail from U.S. 33 in Shenandoah National Park to the southern terminus at Springer Mountain, Ga.

The fire restrictions include the National Park Service lands around McAfee Knob and Tinker Cliffs in Virginia. The Appalachian Trail is closed from Dicks Creek Gap/U.S. 76 in Georgia to the Nantahala River/U.S. 19/U.S. 74 in North Carolina. Updates: www.appalachiantrail.org/trailupdates.

Joe Marusak: 704-358-5067, @jmarusak

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