The fire in Strafford was among the largest in the state so far this year. (Courtesy of New Hampshire Forest Rangers)
A 4.6 acre fire that burned in Strafford in late March is among the largest of several fires rangers have responded to so far this spring. It’s unlikely to be the last.
Spring is an active wildfire season, when some of the largest fires can burn across the state, and the season is just getting underway, according to New Hampshire Forest Rangers. They are urging vigilance in the woods to prevent unnecessary burning that can harm people and property.
In a typical year, around 250 acres of the state will burn, with the vast majority of those fires, around 90 percent, started by humans who are burning brush or have started a campfire, according to Chief Steven Sherman of the Forest Protection Bureau.
That situation is not helped by a changing climate, which has been linked to extended periods of drought, like the one New Hampshire experienced last summer stretching into the fall. Sherman said the bureau has noticed the impacts of a changing climate: wet spells lasting longer followed by extended periods of dryness or drought, and those conditions impact wildfire occurrence in the state.
This year, there’s some concern about fire danger in the northern third of the state, which is currently experiencing “extremely dry conditions,” according to the U.S. drought monitor.
Forest fires in New Hampshire tend to be smaller than those in the western part of the country. A typical fire is between one and 10 acres, Sherman said. Larger fires ranging from 10 to 30 acres are rare, occurring around four or five times a year. And the biggest fires, those burning between 200 and 250 acres, usually happen only once every few years. Fires of that size burned in 2015 and 2016 in New Hampshire.
Sherman said people should take precautions to ensure campfires are properly extinguished: Put water on the fire, stir it up, then add more water. Make sure it’s cool enough to touch. Burn permits are required for those doing outdoor burning. Permits are available through local forest fire wardens or fire departments, or online at nhfirepermit.com.
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