Elevated risk of wildfire for July 4th weekend in Connecticut

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HARTFORD–Due to extremely dry conditions over the past few weeks, the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection has issued a high forest fire danger level for the Fourth of July weekend.

Credit: U.S. & University of Nebraska-Lincoln Drought Monitor

Credit: U.S. & University of Nebraska-Lincoln Drought Monitor

The state is in a mild-to-moderate drought depending on where you are, and the lack of rain means that the ground is very dry. Another contributing factor, particularly in southeastern Connecticut, is a recent uptick in gypsy moth defoliation, meaning trees are bare and the sunlight can reach the ground easier, making it drier and allowing fires to spread easier.

Because of the high fire danger, DEEP is telling visitors and residents to take special care when using sparklers, fireworks or making campfires.

“While some parts of our state had some rain in recent days, and there is a chance for some showers Friday, the forest fire danger will remain at High or above until we get a good statewide soaking,” said DEEP Commissioner Robert Klee. “As always, Connecticut residents and visitors alike need to take precautions to prevent forest fires — especially with the forecast calling largely for hot and dry conditions to continue throughout the state over the next few days.”

So far in 2016, 300 acres of forested land in the state have burned. The average for an entire year in Connecticut is 500.

If you are camping or making a bonfire at a state park, only do so in the stone or metal ring provided, and then thoroughly douse it when you are done.

Even if you have a valid open burning permit to burn brush on your property, while the forest fire danger is at a high level you cannot do so within 100 feet of grassland or woodland.

If you see a forest or brush fire, please call 911 immediately.Brush fire

Forest Fire Prevention Tips
To protect your families and homes from forest fire:
• 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 limbs that overhang the roof or chimney
• Regularly remove leaves and needles from gutters
• Don’t store firewood in the fire safe zone
• Use fire resistant roofing materials
• Make 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
• Have an escape plan and practice it
• Follow state and local open burning laws
• Stay with outside fires until they are completely safe and dead out
• Dispose of wood ashes in a metal bucket, soaking them with water before dumping them

For those who enjoy the use of Connecticut’s parks, forests, and open spaces, use fires with caution and follow 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 fires;
• Extinguish smoking materials with caution.

For more information on fire safety, contact DEEP’s Forestry Division at 860-424-3630.