This week is Fire Prevention Week, and the N.C. Forest Service encourages North Carolinians to heed the call and take steps to ensure careful burning of leaves and yard debris. Fall wildfire season typically lasts from mid-October until mid-December, the time of year when people do a lot of yard work that may include burning leaves and yard debris. These fires sometimes escape and start wildfires. “Debris burning is the No. 1 cause of wildfires in North Carolina,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “Despite the wet weather, there have been 2,264 wildfires this year that have burned more than 8,500 acres.” The state Forest Service urges people to prevent wildfires by considering alternatives to burning. Or, local fire officials can recommend a safe way to burn debris. Household trash should be hauled away to a recycling station. It is illegal to burn anything other than yard debris. Be sure you are fully prepared before burning with a hose, bucket and a shovel; and keep a phone nearby. Never use kerosene, gasoline, diesel fuel or other flammable liquids to speed debris burning; and stay with your fire until it is completely out. Fire Prevention Week was established in the U.S. to commemorate the Great Chicago and Peshtigo fires, which both began on Oct. 8, 1871. The Great Chicago Fire killed more than 250 people, left 100,000 homeless, destroyed more than 17,400 structures and burned more than 2,000 acres. The Peshtigo Fire in northeastern Wisconsin is considered to be the most devastating forest fire in American history. The fire burned down 16 towns, killed 1,152 people and scorched 1.2 million acres before it ended.