EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

November 13, 2013

Londonderry sees four brush fires in one day

By John Toole

---- — LONDONDERRY — Londonderry firefighters responded to four brush fires in 13 hours yesterday.

An unattended campfire and discarded woodstove ashes caused two of them, officials said.

The series of fires has officials asking people to be more cautious.

“Be careful with ashes from woodstoves,” said Brian Johnson, the fire department’s chief of fire prevention.

Johnson said improperly or prematurely disposed ashes have factored in three recent brush fires in town.

There were brush fires reported on Stonehenge Road at 1:36 a.m., on South Road at 10:49 a.m., on Harvey Road at 12:41 p.m. and Anthony Drive at 2:36 p.m.

“There were no injuries,” Johnson said.

But a large amount of leaves on Harvey Road made for a challenge.

“The firefighters had to dig down a half foot,” Johnson said.

Forestry trucks were summoned from Litchfield to help on Anthony Drive, which burned at least a half acre.

A combination of dry conditions, people using stoves amid falling temperatures and ash disposal are adding up to trouble.

“People should put ashes in a metal bucket, with water, and set it outside for a couple of days,” Johnson said.

The fires happened even as the region appeared to be seeing some improving conditions.

The state predicted a “Class 2,” or moderate fire danger, on a scale of five for Rockingham County and statewide yesterday.

“We’re in low fire danger,” Hampstead fire Chief Mike Carrier said.

That’s an improvement.

The fire danger has been as high as a “Class 3” within the past couple of weeks.

Hampstead, Derry, Windham, Chester, Danville and Pelham have all had brush fires within the past couple of weeks.

Carrier and Windham fire Chief Tom McPherson said there were no burn restrictions in place in their towns and brush fires had been small.

Ash disposal was a factor in Windham, too.

“We had two (brush fires) that were caused by improper storage of ashes from a woodstove,” McPherson said.

Dry weather has been an issue.

Meteorologist Margaret Curtis with the National Weather Service in Gray, Maine said, precipitation is below normal both for the month and this fall.

“We have had quite a few dry days,” Curtis said.

Rainfall for November, measured in Concord, is 0.41 inches. The normal amount is 1.52 inches.

“We’re running a little over an inch below normal,” Curtis said.

There’s also a precipitation shortfall since the first of September.

Curtis said just 6.5 inches has been recorded in Concord, while the normal amount is 8.94 inches.

“We are not considered in a drought like they are in the Southwest,” Curtis said.

High pressure is building over the region and the next chance of rain is Tuesday or Wednesday of next week, she said. The long-range outlook is for an improving situation, with precipitation expected to be average over the next three months.

But officials want people to stay safe in the meantime.

“People need to be careful,” Johnson said. “Don’t leave anything unattended.”