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Burn with caution: Fire danger is ‘high’ in N.H. right now

An image of a forest shows a thick layer of leaves on the ground, and haze in the distance
NH Forest Rangers

Forest rangers responded to wildfires in Deering, Shelburne, Tamworth and Chichester on Monday, as New Hampshire marked its third consecutive day of high fire danger.

New Hampshire Forest Protection Bureau Chief Steven Sherman said the state usually sees about 20 days of high fire danger every year, often in the spring and fall. There’s been about six days of high danger so far in 2022, he said.

"This week typically is a busy week for us," Sherman said. "And with these current conditions, we expect that to be the case."

Fire danger is expected to remain high through Thursday. According to the National Fire Danger Rating System, that means wildfires are likely and might be difficult to control. If you are going to burn things outside, officials recommend doing so only in the early morning or late evening.

The fire risk is often high in the spring, before lawns and foliage get green. The forest floor also gets a lot of sunlight this time of year, Sherman said, since the leaves on the trees haven’t come out completely.

“That dries the leaves and the fuels,” he said. “That's what starts or allows fires to spread rapidly.”

Low humidity also contributes to dry conditions that can add to the fire risk.

Wildfires haven’t been bad in New Hampshire this year, Sherman said, in part thanks to a rainy April. But as climate change is increasing the risk of wildfire across the country, he said he’s started to see changes. There are longer periods of dry weather and no rain, but also some periods of intense rain.

“It's those extremes that we see happening,” he said, pointing to drought conditions in 2020 that led to increased wildfires as one example of how changing weather can impact fire risk.

Sherman said the state hasn’t changed its fire response much in response to these changing conditions, but officials are hoping to educate the public on fire safety.

One important lesson to keep in mind: Sherman said to never leave a fire unattended until it’s completely extinguished, meaning there’s no more heat coming from the coal or ashes.

Granite Staters can contact their local fire warden or fire department for fire permits, as well as for more guidance on fire safety in their area.

Mara Hoplamazian reports on climate change, energy, and the environment for NHPR.
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