EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

New Hampshire

April 14, 2014

N.H. firefighters prepare for brush fires

Danger exists for another month or more

Fire officials across the region are on alert for an already active spring fire season, despite recent rain and snow melt.

Incidents so far have been sporadic. Londonderry firefighters recently were called out to knock down a small brush fire, fire Chief Darren O’Brien said. Several other area departments have had nothing to report — yet.

“We’re coming into the brush fire season,” Plaistow fire Chief John McArdle said. “Beginning April, through May, when we have strong winds drying out the surface fuels, you start to see an increase in brush fires.”

Two factors help set up prime brush fire conditions, according to O’Brien: warm air and no wind.

“We have another inch and a half of rain, but if the wind picks up, the end of the week is back in the 60s again, the stuff up top is going to dry out quick and is prone to going up,” O’Brien said.

That can happen quickly, according to Capt. John Dodge, regional forest ranger for the state Division of Forests and Lands.

“All that takes is an hour to go from too wet to burn to dry enough to burn,” Dodge said. “All you need is an ignition source and you’ve got fire.”

Plaistow’s fire department was giving its forestry equipment its annual checkup recently, looking for any problems and making repairs as necessary before the equipment is needed, McArdle said.

Other agencies, like the forest rangers, are embarking on their own seasonal measures, Dodge said.

Part of that involves staffing fire towers in the state’s hazard regions and preparing for aerial detection routes, he said.

“We’re preparing for a difficult spring fire season,” Dodge said. “It typically comes as a surprise to most folks. We’ve been through months and months of dreary winter weather and it seems, in a matter of days, we hit brush fire season.”

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