Emergency officials responded quickly to a small, smoldering fire at Shell Beach off of Meigs Point at Hammonasset Beach State Park Thursday evening.
Emergency officials at the scene said the fire--near a large pile of stacked-up wood on the beach, surrounded by stones stacked up and placed in patterns--was called in by an off-duty police officer.
Emergency officials at the scene said it was fortunate that it was detected and extinguished quickly, since conditions are dry right now and it's . He said the forest fire danger level is currently ranked as "high." The forest fire danger scale has five levels, including low, moderate, high, very high, and extreme.
was called to the scene around 6:15 p.m. Fire Chief David Thomas said the fire was extinguished by a state Environmental Conservation Officer by the time the volunteer fire company arrived on the scene. The Madison Police Department responded to the scene as well.
The National Weather Service has issued several red flag warnings for Connecticut in recent weeks, which means high wind conditions can create erratic fire patterns. Brush fires also have been reported around the state, .
NBC-Connecticut reports that the recent lack of rain, combined with debris left over from Tropical Storm Irene and a freak October snowstorm has added to the potential for brush and forest fires around the state:
High winds on Wednesday are also a contributing factor to the fire danger. Last week, brush fires were sparked in several towns, including a fire that charred more than 130 acres in Devil's Hopyard State Park in East Haddam, according to some reports. Firefighters lit backfires to protect two homes that were nearby. On Tuesday night, firefighters in Plainville battled a fire at the Plainville transfer station when a pile of storm debris caught fire.
According to the state Department of Energy & Environmental Protection (DEEP):
Connecticut traditionally experiences high forest fire danger in the Spring from mid-March through May. DEEP's Division of Forestry constantly monitors the danger of forest fire to help protect Connecticut's 1.8 million acres of forested land. Throughout the Spring forest fire season, DEEP sends daily advisories on forest fire danger levels to DEEP's state park forest field staff, municipalities, fire departments and the media. Forest fire danger levels are classified at low, moderate, high, very high or extreme. In an average year approximately 1,300 acres of Connecticut woodland are scorched by forest fires. If you have received a permit from your local Open Burning Official to burn brush on your property, the permit is not valid if the Forest Fire Danger is rated high, very high or extreme and you are burning within 100 feet of a grassland or woodland.
The DEEP's Forest Fire Control Office urges all who enjoy the use of Connecticut's parks, forests and open spaces, to use fires with caution and heed the following recommendations especially during forest fire season:
- 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;
- Carefully extinguish smoking materials.
For Connecticut homeowners, the following steps are suggested to protect your family members and home:
- 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 any limbs which 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 don't 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.
If you spot a forest fire, remain calm, go to the nearest telephone and dial 911 to report the fire as quickly as possible to your local fire department. Calmly tell the emergency dispatcher when you saw it and where you saw it. Stay on the telephone until the dispatcher tells you to hang up.