With the snow melt, comes brush fire season

  • Peterborough Fire Department crews put out a brush fire in the area of ConVal High School in June of 2018. Ledger-Transcript file photo—

  • Peterborough Fire Department crews put out a brush fire in the area of ConVal High School last year. Ledger-Transcript file photo

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 4/23/2019 5:32:14 PM

The protective snow cover is gone, and it is the start of the brush fire season in New Hampshire.

The region got plenty of snow and rain over the winter months, but saturated soil doesn’t mean much when it comes to brush fires, Greenville Fire Chief Charlie Buttrick said.

“The water table is up, but that doesn’t make a difference, really. It’s what happens with mother nature,” Buttrick said. “If it’s dry or windy, then the fire danger obviously goes up.”

April 14 through 20 is New Hampshire’s Wildfire Awareness Week. The state usually sees a jump in brush and wildfires in April, as the snow cover recedes.

New Hampshire experiences about 250 wildfires a year, which burn about 250 acres of forests, according to the N.H. Forest Protection Bureau and the state Department of Natural and Cultural Resources.

“Most wildfires in New Hampshire are the result of human carelessness or people not understanding the simple steps that can be taken to reduce risk,” said Captain Douglas Miner, wildfire prevention specialist for the N.H. Forest Protection Bureau.

“It’s a lot of common sense,” Mason Fire Chief Fred Greenwood said. “If it’s windy, don’t be burning. And you always need a permit, unless there’s an inch of snow on the ground, and we’re hopefully beyond that.”

Also, be aware of the current fire danger rating in your community. The rating are from Class 1 to Class 5, with lower numbers representing lower risk.

“The conditions change day by day and from community to community. On Class 4 or Class 5 days, the potential of a fire getting away from a homeowner is likely,” Buttrick said.

Greenwood advised residents to be aware of their surroundings, and clear the area around fires of potential fuel, and have a water source and rake at the site, and to never leave fires unattended. Douse hot ashes before disposing of them.

“In the spring, fires burn fast. You can’t run as fast as it’ll go across the grass on a windy day. It hasn’t ‘greened up’ as we say, so it’s all dead material. It’s sitting there, dry fuel that wants to burn,” Greenwood said.

Greenwood said it’s also a good idea to clear the debris such as dead leaves from your yard, whether you plan to have a fire or not, because wildfires can spread to yards and homes if there is fuel available.

“They’re dry, dead and looking for a little bit of a spark,” Greenwood said.

Wildfires are also caused by unplanned burns, ignited by thrown cigarettes, sunbeams being concentrated through broken glass or lightning strikes.

A lit cigarette hitting bark mulch or dead leaves could easily start a wildfire, Greenwood said.

“Unfortunately, you see it all the time. People flick [lit cigarettes] out the window with no thought of what’s going to happen,” Greenwood said.

Burn permits can be obtained by contacting your local fire department or online through the state Division of Forests and Lands. Residents burning without permits can be subject to fines, and for multiple offenses, can have their right to a burning permit revoked.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.


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