The Mountain Times

°F Thu, April 24, 2014

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Wildfire danger elevated, take precautions to prevent fires

Dry and breezy conditions across the state have continued for weeks, which brings with it a high risk of wildfires in Vermont. In windy conditions, fires can spread very rapidly and become unmanageable. Local fire departments throughout the state have responded to several wildfires already this season.

A wildland fire in Hyde Park should serve to remind all Vermonters that grass and brush fires can be dangerous. On Monday, April 30 a wind-swept fire was reported to have charred several acres, burned a garage and threatened several homes and buildings, including the County Courthouse, which was evacuated as a safety precaution.

State officials and local fire departments remind Vermonters that the increased potential for wildfires necessitates certain precautions by all. In general, debris burning is the leading cause of wild land fires in Vermont. These fires cause property damage; lost natural resources; and like all fires, can result in a loss of life. Most people never intend to start a wildfire and can avoid this by choosing a day to burn when fire danger is low - and such days are NOT in the immediate forecast.

Persistent dry and windy weather in the state has made grass, brush and leaves susceptible to uncontrolled fires, but common sense and caution by all Vermonters can prevent wildfires.

Vermonters help prevent and prepare for wildfire when they:
•    Obey all local and state laws or restrictions on open burning. By state law, a "Permit to Kindle Fire" (an open burning permit) MUST be obtained from the Town Forest Fire Warden and is REQUIRED before you start to burn any natural wood or vegetation outdoors. The fire warden will issue a permit if the weather and fuel conditions are favorable for a controlled burn.
•    Avoid burning on dry, windy days or when Fire Weather Watches or Red Flag Warnings are issued by the National Weather Service.
•    If you can legally and safely burn: Burn small piles; gradually adding to the fire as it burns down. Large piles of burning debris generate intense heat capable of carrying burning embers up and into other areas.
•    Clear all dry grass and weeds from around your burn area, and around your home and out-buildings.
•    Always have tools handy while you burn: including water, a hose, a rake and a shovel.
•    If burning a large agricultural area, please check with your local fire department for advice about burning it safely.
•    Call 911 or your local fire department if your burn gets out of control and becomes a wildfire. If you delay calling for help, you may have disastrous results. Do not attempt to suppress a wildfire, if it cannot be done easilly with the tools and water you have on hand.
•    NEVER burn household trash. The use of burn barrels is illegal in Vermont.

The National Weather Service has developed an open burning weather awareness campaign at: www.erh.noaa.gov/btv/awareness/firewx/open_burning.php

For more information call 802-786-3856.