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Spring signals the start of wildfire season in NH
Snow may be gone from most backyards across the state, but New Hampshire’s forests and fields haven’t greened up yet, signaling the start of wildfire season statewide.
To help remind people of the potential dangers that wildfires present, the N.H. Division of Forests and Lands, along with the Northeastern Forest Fire Protection Compact, has designated April 16-22, 2023 as Wildfire Awareness Week across the northeast as well as in eastern Canada.
Last week, Governor Chris Sununu issued a proclamation supporting the importance of wildfire awareness and the value of fire prevention efforts statewide.
“It’s easy to think that wildfires only happen in other regions of the country, but in fact they do occur here in New Hampshire and they can have devastating effects, not only on the landscape but also on the state’s forest products industry and our recreation and tourism sectors,” said N.H. Forest Protection Bureau Chief Steven Sherman. “Every wildfire has the potential to negatively impact our state and local economy while destroying property and endangering personal safety.”
Spring’s low relative humidity, gusty winds and highly flammable fuels like dry grasses and leaf litter can easily catch fire when exposed to a heat source. Unattended and improperly extinguished burn piles from spring property cleanup and campfires are common causes of wildfires in New Hampshire, but sparks from lawnmowers and other equipment can also start a fire that quickly becomes difficult to control.
In New Hampshire after snowmelt, anyone wishing to have an outdoor fire must obtain a state fire permit issued in advance; they are only available when daily fire danger conditions indicate that it’s safe to burn. Most communities in the state make their permits available through nhfirepermit.com.
“Smokey Bear really does say it best with ‘Only you can prevent wildfires,’” said N.H. Forest Ranger Nathan Blanchard. “Wildfire Awareness Week is one way to help him spread the word and to remind people that by being responsible and working together, we can keep New Hampshire safe from wildfires.”
In the past decade, New Hampshire experienced 1,140 wildfires impacting 3,100 acres. While most were small, others – including the Bayle Mountain Fire in 2015, the Dilly Fire in 2017 and the Bemis Fire in 2022 – were highly destructive and challenging to contain.
Large, complex wildfires can easily burn for several days, requiring teams of local and regional trained wildfire personnel to bring them under control. These suppression efforts result in expensive, unplanned costs to local communities.
Anyone interested in learning more about wildfire prevention is encouraged to contact their forest fire warden, local fire department or the N.H. Forest Protection Bureau. Information is also available from the National Fire Protection Association’s Firewise Communities website, firewise.org.
Eighty-three percent of New Hampshire is designated as forestland, making it the second-most forested state after Maine.
The N.H. Forest Protection Bureau is part of the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources’ Division of Forests and Lands, which protects and promotes the value provided by trees, forests, and natural communities. For more information about the Division of Forests and Lands and the work of its Forest Protection Bureau, visit nh.gov/nhdfl or call 603-271-2214.