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Weather conditions expected to raise threat of fast-moving brush fires

Union Leader Correspondent

May 10. 2018 10:00PM
Warm winds and still-dormant vegetation make brushfire danger high in springtime. The National Weather Service warned that conditions today will be prime for brush fires. Many communities have imposed limits on outdoor burning permits. (UNION LEADER FILE/JASON SCHREIBER)

New Hampshire fire crews are on alert as dry weather and gusty winds are expected to create dangerous wildfire conditions today.

Firefighters have been battling numerous brush fires around the state in recent weeks, but forecasters said the threat will likely increase.

The National Weather Service in Gray, Maine, issued a Fire Weather Watch for the entire state from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. today as dry air combines with a northwest wind of 10 to 20 mph, with higher gusts.

“The conditions will be ripe for rapidly spreading fires if they get out of control,” said William Watson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

On Thursday, crews in Auburn responded to a brush fire on Meadow Lane while Manchester firefighters battled fires in the areas of Goffstown Road and Bodwell Road.

Earlier in the week, firefighters in Candia responded to a brush fire in the area of Chester Turnpike; crews in Kingston were kept busy with a brush fire Tuesday on North Road and a larger one last Saturday near power lines in the area of Towle Road.

Just over the border in Maine, a wildfire burned more than 300 acres last week near the Kennebunk-Sanford town line.

Kingston Fire Chief Bill Seaman said the brush fire on North Road was started when a homeowner removed ashes from a burn barrel and placed them along the tree line.

“People need to understand that when they do pull a permit that they need to make sure it’s completely out when they’re done,” he said.

The town of Exeter stopped issuing permits for outdoor burning following an 8-acre brush fire in woods off Pond Hill Road in Barrington in late April.

Exeter Fire Chief Brian Comeau said the town began allowing outside burning again about a week ago, but likely won’t today if the wind picks up.

“We’re pretty cautious early on about issuing permits,” he said.

The brush fire threat is often high in the spring because there are no leaves on the trees and other plants and the surface of the ground dries quickly, Comeau said. “Once we get a good canopy of green in the trees, the fire danger in the woods will go down a bit.”

Fire officials warn residents not to be deceived by the recent rain.

Hampton Fire Chief Jameson Ayotte said his town issues burn permits based on state guidelines and that a resident must call the day before to see if burning will be permitted.

“We have not had any significant outdoor fires yet this season, but we remain vigilant since the threat is there,” he said.

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