For Immediate Release
April 12, 2022

Contact

Shelly Angers, NH Department of Natural & Cultural Resources
(603) 271-3136 | shelly.angers@dncr.nh.gov

Op-Ed: NH’s forests count on your help during wildfire season

April 17-23, 2022 is Wildfire Awareness Week in New Hampshire, and it’s a perfect opportunity for everyone to learn more about wildfire in our state as well as what we all can do to protect the forest resources that are so important to our day-to-day lives.

You may know that, at 82 percent forest cover, New Hampshire is the second-most forested state in the country. We depend on healthy forests for recreation and jobs, as habitat for wildlife and to help keep our air and water clean.

Wildfire Awareness Week in New Hampshire takes place in April, timed to coincide with the start of wildfire season here, when forest floors, meadows and lawns haven’t greened up yet and the forest canopy can’t provide protection from drying sunlight and spring winds, each of which make conditions even more combustible.

While wildfires in New Hampshire tend to be smaller than the dramatic fires out west that make the news, that doesn’t mean they aren’t destructive and dangerous. Ninety percent of wildfires in New Hampshire are human caused, and we have, on average, 250 wildfires each year, with 250 acres destroyed.

Most wildfires in New Hampshire are contained quickly and with minimal loss, but even the smallest wildfire can result in the loss of structures or other personal property. Injuries can also be a factor.

The N.H. Forest Protection Bureau works all year long to minimize both wildfire incidents and their impacts. Our full-time staff covers the state from Pittsburg to Hinsdale to Rye, working closely with forest fire wardens, fire departments, fire tower lookouts, aerial surveillance and others to implement a comprehensive program of prevention, training, early detection, hazard mitigation and wildfire suppression. Our team is dedicated to keeping you and your loved ones safe from the damage wildfires can cause.

But our most important partner is you! You can help minimize wildfire risk in New Hampshire by developing a few good habits. These include always checking with the local jurisdiction and obtaining a fire permit before burning any materials outdoors – no matter how small the fire you plan on having; being careful about sources that you might not immediately think could start a wildfire, including sparks or heat from machinery, embers hidden in ash from a woodstove or even stray bullets hitting rocks and igniting forest fuels; and always making sure your fire is completely out by drowning it in water, stirring it, feeling it for residual heat and repeating the process until the heat source is 100 percent extinguished. 

Smokey Bear’s wise words, “Only you can prevent wildfires” is as true today as when he first became the icon of wildfire awareness in 1944. Please join him – and us – by remaining vigilant and on high alert for wildfire danger, not just during Wildfire Awareness Week, but also all year long.

Chief Steven Sherman
N.H. Forest Protection Bureau,
N.H. Division of Forests and Lands