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Low humidity, dry air, drought conditions and high winds makes for ‘red flag’ day

  • Concord firefighters battle a brush fire that came close to a garage and house on Joshiah Bartlett Road in Concord on Monday afternoon, April 26, 2021. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Concord firefighters battle a brush fire that came close to a garage and house on Joshiah Bartlett Road in Concord on Monday afternoon, April 26, 2021. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Concord firefighters battle a brush fire that came close to a garage and house on Josiah Bartlett Road in Concord on Monday afternoon.

  • Concord firefighters battle a brush fire that came close to a garage and house on Joshiah Bartlett Road in Concord on Monday afternoon, April 26, 2021. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Concord firefighters battle a brush fire that came close to a garage and house on Josiah Bartlett Road in Concord on Monday afternoon. GEOFF FORESTER photos / Monitor staff

  • Concord firefighters battle a brush fire that came close to a garage and house on Joshiah Bartlett Road in Concord on Monday afternoon, April 26, 2021. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Concord firefighters battle a brush fire that came close to a garage and house on Joshiah Bartlett Road in Concord on Monday afternoon, April 26, 2021. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Concord firefighters battle a brush fire that came close to a garage and house on Joshiah Bartlett Road in Concord on Monday afternoon, April 26, 2021. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

  • Concord firefighters battle a brush fire that came close to a garage and house on Joshiah Bartlett Road in Concord on Monday afternoon, April 26, 2021. GEOFF FORESTER—Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Published: 4/26/2021 4:53:18 PM

Outdoor burning was banned Monday after continued dry weather combined with high winds turned it into a “red flag” day, which signifies that outdoor blazes can spread quickly.

One such blaze hit a property on Josiah Bartlett Road in Concord on Monday afternoon.

The weather combined for the perfect storm: low humidity, dry air, drought conditions and high winds.

“It is extremely dangerous at the moment just because of all the factors,” said Concord Fire Battalion Chief Derek Kelleher. “All of that plays into it, so embers that are smoldering can easily ignite.”

The fire on Josiah Bartlett Road, which runs parallel with Route 106, threatened an outbuilding on the property, Kelleher said, but was contained exactly an hour after firefighters were dispatched at 1:30. He said the nine firefighters sent to the area “caught a break” due to a wet swampy area out behind the property, which helped get the fire under control.

Kelleher said that the fire’s cause was not wholly determined, but was possibly due to a permitted burn the night before.

“We recommend absolutely no burning,” Kelleher said. “Just because of the very high fire danger and the red flag warning. So fire can ignite easily and it can also spread quickly.”

Kelleher said that it was important for people to be aware of how dry conditions are. “The fire danger’s going to stay until we get some heavy rains,” he said.

Despite rain showers in the past week, New Hampshire has seen below average precipitation since the start of last summer. Parts of the state are more than eight inches below average precipitation for the past year and some water utilities are already saying that conservation efforts will be needed until there is a major turnaround in weather.

Most of Merrimack County, including Concord, slipped back into “moderate drought” conditions this month. The northern half of the state is considered “abnormally dry,” which is step below drought.

“Everyone needs to use extra precaution here and just be mindful about how dangerous it is,” Kelleher said. “It can throw some people off, temperatures like today – it feels cool outside, but it’s actually very dry out. Some people, they don’t think of fire danger just because it’s not warm or hot outside.”

Early spring is often a time for wildfires because leaves have not yet appeared, meaning that sunshine can easily reach the ground and dry out branches, old leaves and other material there, making it more susceptible to fire. New England has been particularly sunny this spring; the Blue Hill Observatory in Massachusetts said we just experienced the sunniest March on record since 1886, with 19% more bright sunshine recorded than for the average March.

(Staff writer David Brooks contributed to this report.)




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