High risk of brushfires across New England

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May 3, 2013, 6:13 pm
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(NECN: Jack Thurston, Colchester, Vt.) - High temperatures, low humidity, and no rain this week have contributed to tinder dry conditions in most places across New England. Fire departments region-wide have warned that something as simple as a cigarette tossed out the window of a car can spark an emergency. "It's very dangerous right now," said Chief Dave Bergeron of the Winooski, Vt. Fire Dept.

Bergeron told NECN his department was lucky to contain a brush fire Friday morning before it spread close to homes. He is pleading with homeowners to not do any intentional backyard burning or hold recreational bonfires until the chance those flames could get out of control is reduced. "People should not be going out and doing any open burning at all right now," Bergeron said.

A large team of professionals was doing just that, though, at the Vermont National Guard base in Colchester. It was a planned fire for environmental management, designed to create conditions favorable for the rare Pitch Pine tree. It requires a hot fire to release the pine seeds from the cone and create a suitable seed bed for germination, Vt. Guard officials explained.  

The Guard carved lines around the fire zone designed to contain the flames, and environmental protection officials said they took other steps to keep the burn safe and controlled. "We've taken a lot of precautions, especially with the dryness and weather conditions, to make sure we have everything in place to prevent something bad from going on," Maj. Jacob Roy told WPTZ-TV.

Elsewhere in Colchester, firefighters scrambled earlier in the week to stay on top of fast-moving flames in a hard-to-fight spot on Marble Island, along Lake Champlain. "We are on a [burn] ban here in Colchester, and so is every other community around us," said Chief David Sciebek of the Malletts Bay Fire Dept. "It is still very dry."

Back in Winooski, Chief Bergeron told NECN he is hoping for a few good soaking rains to extinguish the risk of brush fires. "Until we get that, the danger's going to be very high," he added.

However, it doesn't look like Bergeron will get his wish for several days. There's no rain in the forecast until at least the middle of next week.

Tags: vermont, wildfires, Winooski, Colchester, Jack Thurston, Brushfires, Fire chief Dave Bergeron
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