CT entering spring forest/brush fire season

March 18, 2019 GMT

Once the last of the snow melts away, Connecticut will be in the spring forest fire season.

A National Weather Service map shows the heaviest concentration of snow is in northwest Connecticut with up to 6 inches in Salisbury and Norfolk.

Most areas southern Connecticut have a few remaining north-facing patches of snow.

On Sunday a brush fire off of Queen Street in Shelton spread to a nearby shed.

The traditional spring fire season is from mid-March through mid-May.

“This is the time of the year when deciduous trees are bare and the warm spring sun heats up the forest fuels,” according to the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

“Forest fuels are made up of anything that burns; typically grasses, leaves, twigs, branches and decaying material in the soil. As the days grow longer and sun gets hotter, the fuels that are most exposed dry out very fast. Grasses, twigs, and very small branches are called ‘1-hour fuels’. That is, they can take on atmospheric conditions within an hour.

“Consequently we can receive precipitation and if the sun comes out and a breeze picks up, the fine fuels can be available for burning within an hour. Larger fuels take longer to dry out. Typically fires that start this time of the year burn just the surface leaves and can spread very fast. Generally they cause little, long term damage to the forest.”

During the spring, the Spread Index usually drives the fire danger. Wind is most critical.

DEEP’s Division of Forestry issues Forest Fire Danger Ratings for Connecticut. A National Fire Danger Rating system that utilizes two indexes is used in Connecticut. The “spread” of a fire is predicted with the Spread Index, which is a numeric rating that corresponds with how fast a fire travels in ‘Chains per Hour’ (a chain is 66′). For example, if a prediction is made that the Spread Index will be 19, it means the fire is predicted to spread 1,254 feet in an hour.