Red Flag Warning Issued; Ban on Brush Burning In Place

March 28, 2012 by  
Filed under Wind Energy Tips


Thanks to an incredibly mild winter, there’s a heightened chance of brush fires. The National Weather Service issued a red flag warning today — Tuesday, March 27 — noting that the conditions are perfect for forest fires.

Open burning is not allowed, even if people have a permit, according to the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

“Red Flag warnings are issued when high winds will be sustained or there will be frequent gusts above a certain threshold, normally 25 mph, as is expected to be the case today,” the state DEEP noted in a March 27 press release. “Red Flag conditions are also defined by humidity levels, below 30 percent, and precipitation for the previous five days of less than 1/4-inch.”

Perfect Conditions for Fire to Spread

“The wind contributes to it and the dryness,” said Ned Dalton, deputy marshal with the Woodbury Volunteer Fire Department. “This winter, we didn’t have enough snow to matte down debris from the fall. It’s all fluffy and has a greater chance of catching on fire.”

Middlebury Volunteer Fire Department Chief Paul Perrotti said open burning is a no-go right now.

“We have a problem with people trying to do these outside burns without getting permits,” he said. “Right now, I suspended all burning because believe it or not, from January to April, the sun is the strongest.”

If people have brush they want to burn, both fire department officials recommended contacting the town’s transfer stations.

Even with a day of rain, that alone does not really help with brush fire conditions, Perrotti said.

“People will say, ‘oh, it rained yesterday so I can burn brush’,” Perrotti said. “There’s still ground cover that didn’t really get wet.”

Perrotti said that anytime a Middlebury residents wants to engage in open burning, be it for brush purposes or a bonfire at a party, they must go through the permit process.

“Right now, people can still apply for permits,” he said. “I’m telling people that you can’t burn until we get better weather.”

Misconceptions About the Right Conditions to Burn

People mistakenly think that overcast days are better days to burn, Perrotti said.

“Overcast days are actually environmentally bad days because the smoke just lingers around,” he said.

Illegal burning taps into town resources too. Perrotti said he sometimes has to ask for a police officer to accompany him in order for him to walk on the property.

The best conditions are sunny, clear days, with winds of less than five miles an hour, said Perrotti.

The ban on burning likely will not be lifted until the state sees a couple days of solid rain, he said.

Health Concerns

“Asthma is a big thing,” Perrotti said. “For me to allow burning, I have to look at the whole situation — how close the fire will be to someone’s house, for example.”

He recalled when a resident burned illegally and the smoke traveled into the neighbor’s house. The woman’s asthma flared because of the burning, he said.

A Privilege, Not a Right

“People have to realize that burning in Middlebury is a privilege, not a right,” said Perrotti. “Some towns don’t allow open burning at all.”

The approval of burning permits is at the discretion of the fire marshal, he said, and reminded residents that approval is not immediate.

Fire Safety Tips

The state DEEP issued the following safety tips.

  • Make a fire safe zone around your house. Clean flammable vegetation and debris from at least 30 feet around the house and any outbuildings.
  • Prune away the lower limbs of evergreens that are within the fire safe zone. Evergreens catch fire easily during dry periods and burn quickly.
  • Remove any limbs which overhang the roof or chimney.
  • Regularly remove leaves and needles from gutters.
  • Not storing firewood in the fire safe zone.
  • Using fire resistant roofing materials;
  • Making sure firefighters can find and access your home. Mark your house and roads clearly and prune away limbs and trees along your driveway which do not allow fire truck access;
  • Having an escape plan and practicing it;
  • Following state and local open burning laws;
  • Staying with outside fires until they are completely safe and dead out; and
  • Disposing of wood ashes in a metal bucket, soaking them with water before dumping them.

When walking in Connecticut’s parks, forests, and open spaces, the DEEP recommends using fires with caution and following these recommendations:

  • Obey local laws regarding open fires, including campfires.
  • Keep all flammable objects away from fire.
  • Have firefighting tools nearby and handy.
  • Carefully dispose of hot charcoal.
  • Drown all fire.
  • Extinguish smoking materials with caution.

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