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May 08. 2013 9:05PM

A little rain helps, but fire officials say we need more

MEREDITH - The rain that fell Wednesday may have spoiled a string of beautiful spring days, but it was welcomed by fire safety officials in the state who have been fighting what has become a difficult spring fire season.

"We've been doing rain dances every morning," said Meredith Fire Chief Ken Jones, chuckling. "We certainly need some water."

New Hampshire is 3½ inches below its average rainfall amount since March 1, said Dough Miner, a state forest ranger with the N.H.

Division of Forests and Lands. The lack of rain has made the usual spring fire season more difficult, as fire dangers have reached the "very high" level in many areas and some towns are not allowing open burning permits, he said.

In recent weeks, multiple-alarm brush fires have been fought in Conway, Lebanon, Loudon, Laconia, Meredith and other communities.

Many fires have required heavy forestry work, such as digging of trenches, to keep flames from spreading.

Spring usually means brush fires in the state, and thus far, this spring's fire season is not among the worst in history, Miner said. The state is not at drought levels yet, he said.

But without a good, "productive" rain, said Loudon Fire Department Lt. John Reese, the fire danger will get worse.

"We need more than the half an inch we got (Wednesday), we need good, long, steady soaking rains," Reese said.

Franklin Fire Chief Kevin LaChapelle agreed.

"It's not just what's on top of the ground that's dry now, the ground itself is very dry," he said.

National Weather Service meteorologist Mike Cempa said the state should see rain Thursday and Friday, and Friday's rain could bring half an inch or more rain to the area. Dry weather will likely follow this weekend, he said.

Miner said the forecast is promising, and Friday's prolonged rainfall could help lower the fire danger statewide.

But he doesn't think it will bring an end to the spate of outdoor fires.

"I don't forecast that this rain will be enough to end the spring fire season," he said. "It could help us for the moment, but a day or two of bright sunlight and wind could put us right back where we were."

In the meantime, Miner said those wishing to burn anything outside should check with their towns to see if it is permitted or if there are restrictions on burning.

dseufert@newstote.com


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