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Connecticut faces high threat of wildfires this week

 FILE, 2019: A forester at Pachaug State Forest in Voluntown keeps an eye on the perimeter of a controlled burn at Harkness Memorial State Park in Waterford.
Patrick Skahill
Connecticut Public Radio
FILE, 2019: A forester at Pachaug State Forest in Voluntown keeps an eye on the perimeter of a controlled burn at Harkness Memorial State Park in Waterford.

The National Weather Service is issuing a red flag warning for Connecticut Tuesday and Wednesday.

"The humidity will be very low and with a gusty wind and dry ground, we have a very high threat for the spread of brush fires," Connecticut Public meteorologist Garett Argianas said.

As a result, Connecticut residents might want to hold off running any lawn equipment for the next couple of days.

Patty Cormier from the National Association of State Foresters said the use of power equipment is a common source of fire starts, especially poorly-maintained equipment.

"So you've got this old mower out there with a sparking carburetor and your yard is full of dead leaves and dead sticks, that's an opportunity for a fire start," she said. "A fire can also start by just a piece of equipment nicking a rock."

Tips for campfires

When a red flag warning has been issued for the area, a campfire should never be started. But if conditions allow, Cormier said there are steps to take to lessen the chances of sparking a wildfire.

  • Have water and a tool such as a shovel on hand
  • Make a campfire ring with a ten foot perimeter free of any dead leaves or sticks
  • Do not let the fire get too big
  • When finished, douse the fire with water multiple times until the ashes are no longer hot

Cormier said if the fire isn't doused enough, there can still be enough heat left to spark a flame overnight or after vacating the campsite.
Wildfire threat is growing

Cormier said the weather conditions are changing in New England and it's increasing the threat of wildfires.

"Dry is drier, and longer," she said. "So longer stretches of drought, more wind and we're seeing that the the wildfire seasons are stretching into the whole year."

There's also a higher fuel load in the forests due to invasive pests, such as theemerald ash borer and spongy moth, which are killing trees.

Cormier said preventing a fire is better than fighting a fire.

"It's about thinking about it before it starts and that's upon us all to do that," she said.

Jennifer Ahrens is a producer for Morning Edition. She spent 20+ years producing TV shows for CNN and ESPN. She joined Connecticut Public Media because it lets her report on her two passions, nature and animals.
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