The Connecticut Department of Energy & Environmental Protection (CT DEEP) has put the Forest Fire Danger Level for Thursday, April 24, at Very High.
Forest fire danger levels are classified as Low, Moderate, High, Very High or Extreme. In an average year approximately 1,300 acres of Connecticut woodland are scorched by forest fires.
In addition, the National Weather Service has issued a Red Flag Warning for all of Connecticut today. The NWS warning is in effect from 10 am until 8 pm.
The entire region, in fact, is under the same type of warning. The majority of New Jersey, the southeastern third of New York, parts of Maryland and southeastern Pennsylvania, the westernmost portion of Massachusetts, much of southern Vermont and the very southern portion of Maine are also under Red Flag Warnings today. Much of South Dakota and Nebraska are also under the same Weather Service warning.
According to CT DEEP, all open burning permits have been suspended today even if a resident has a permit from the local open burning official.
Newtown Fire Marshall Bill Halstead confirmed the suspension of open burn permits in Newtown.
“You cannot burn today,” Mr Halstead told The Newtown Bee Thursday morning. “No one has been able to do open burning since last Friday, in fact.”
Due to weather conditions, the fire index has been High since late last week, he said.
“When the fire index is High or above, you cannot burn,” he said. “All permits are currently cancelled.”
Connecticut traditionally experiences high forest fire danger in the spring from mid-March through May. DEEP’s Division of Forestry constantly monitors the danger of forest fire to help protect the state’s 1.8 million acres of forested land.
Newtown’s fire companies have responded to at least eight brush fires since March 26, including one that kept Botsford Fire Rescue and Sandy Hook Fire & Rescue in the area of Great Ring and High Rock roads for a few hours last month.
The CT DEEP also reminds residents to be cautious with outdoor cooking fires during this time period.
According to the state office, fires will be very difficult to control today especially when the winds are gusting over 20 mph this late this morning and afternoon Red Flag warnings are issued when winds will be sustained or there will be frequent gusts above a certain threshold (normally 25 mph).
In addition, relative humidity needs to be below 30 percent and precipitation for the previous five days must be less than a quarter of an inch on average statewide.
Early spring time weather typically includes daily changes in forest fire danger and can easily catch residents off guard. While many areas of Connecticut experienced scattered showers with occasional pockets of moderate but brief rain yesterday, relative humidity in the low teens and strong winds continued to dry any residual dead or cured vegetation from winter, which creates ground conditions very conducive for fire ignition and spread.
These daily variations will last until forest under growth greens during May.
“Anyone spotting a forest fire should remain calm and dial 911 to report the fire as quickly as possible,” DEEP Deputy Commissioner Susan Whalen said via press release.
NWS recorded humidity at 27 percent at 9:53 am Thursday, and a wind speed of 24 miles per hour. The service is predicting a sunny day, with a high near 59 degrees.
The day will be “breezy, with a northwest wind 21 to 24 mph, with gusts as high as 36 mph,” the service reported.