RALEIGH, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — The N.C. Forest Service put Ashe, Gaston, Cleveland, and Burke counties into a burn ban Sunday night until further notice.

Due to hazardous forest fire conditions, Commissioner Troxler issued an order to cancel all burning permits and prohibit open burning for 14 western North Carolina counties experiencing severe drought conditions, including Burke County.

The order is effective from Sunday, Nov. 5, at 5 p.m. and will remain in effect until further notice.

“Several counties in Western North Carolina are currently in a severe drought, and we are seeing wildfire activity increase due to dry conditions. Because dry conditions are expected to continue, this burn ban is necessary to reduce the risk of fires starting and spreading quickly. Our top priority is always to protect lives, property, and forestland across the state,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “Even though not all areas of North Carolina fall under the burn ban, we do encourage extreme caution with any burning as conditions are dry in many areas.”

Wildfires raged in two North Carolina areas over the weekend. One was in the Henderson County-Burke area. Edneyville Fire Department reported Sunday that the fire was 431 acres and only five percent contained. Folks in those counties cannot open burn items, including burning leaves, branches, or other plant material. In all cases, burning trash, lumber, tires, newspapers, plastics, or other nonvegetative materials is illegal.

The ban is also in effect for Cherokee, Graham, Clay, Macon, Swain, Transylvania, Polk, Henderson, and McDowell counties. Ashe County Emergency Management enacted a local burn ban on Monday to be proactive amid the dry conditions.

Violators of the local open burning ban will face a $100 citation for the first offense, which doubles per subsequent occurrence, authorities said.

This is a developing story; check back for updates