EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

May 7, 2013

Fire danger remains very high in Southern N.H.

By Alex Lippa

---- — Any plans for a campfire need to be extinguished for the time being.

Today is the seventh straight day of Class 4 fire danger in Southern New Hampshire. Class 4 means fire danger is “very high.”

“We are asking people to be patient,” said Doug Miner, state forest ranger and fire specialist for the New Hampshire Division of Forests and Lands. “We’ve had numerous brush fires across the state, with many being close to residences, which is always a concern.”

As a result, many fire departments suspended all outdoor burning last week until further notice.

“When a Class 4 or higher is issued, we automatically stop issuing permits,” Atkinson fire Chief Michael Murphy said. “So far, people seem to be heeding our warnings.”

The lack of rainfall has fire departments on the alert for brush fires. Concord hasn’t received any measurable rainfall since April 25, according to the National Weather Service.

“Once you get a persistent breeze, it tends to dry everything,” Plaistow fire Chief John McArdle said. “Right now, there isn’t enough leaf cover on the trees and the sun really beats down on the ground.”

Murphy said his department did ask a family to put out a campfire over the weekend, but there have been no brush fires in Atkinson so far this year.

Londonderry hasn’t been so lucky. Acting fire Chief Darren O’Brien said six brush fires had been reported this spring.

“They’ve occurred in different areas,” O’Brien said. “One appeared in a remote area of the woods, which we still don’t know the cause of. In this weather, one spark or ember can cause them to spread.”

McArdle said Plaistow has had several small fires in the last few weeks, each originating from a pile of mulch.

“People just need to pay attention to what they’re doing,” he said. “We don’t want people throwing cigarettes out of their cars. Just use an ashtray.”

In addition to people tossing cigarettes, people need to be wary of throwing away ashes from a wood stove.

“It’s been an unusual spring, where the weather has been cold at night, so people have been using a wood stove,” Miner said. “You can’t just throw a bucket of ashes on the ground. It’s amazing that ash can be such a great insulator.”

Miner said there is usually a period in April where the ground is dry following the final snow melt, but this year it has been more profound.

“We are about 31/2 inches below average rainfall this year,” he said. “The heavy snow pack we had this winter helped, but the moisture from that is now completely dissipated.”

But the dry weather may soon be coming to an end.

Mike Kistner, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Gray, Maine, said light rain is in the forecast for Thursday and Friday. On Sunday, areas of the region could see up to an inch of rain.

“We are definitely looking forward to a few days of rain,” Windham fire Chief Tom McPherson said. “It doesn’t get this dry very often.”