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Wildfire risk low in Belmont despite National Weather Service warning

Posted by Evan Allen  April 18, 2012 11:56 AM

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Though the National Weather Service has issued a warning about elevated wildfire risk today for most of Massachusetts, Belmont Assistant Fire Chief Angus Davison said that the danger in Belmont is slight.

“It’s a concern, but not enough that we’re adding extra men,” said Davison.

Unusually dry weather has increased the chances of fire, according to the Weather Service. In addition to Massachusetts, Rhode Island, northern Connecticut and southern New Hampshire are at higher than usual risk for fire.

Davison said that although Belmont does have some large swaths of open space and woods, there is prohibition against open burning anywhere in town – which means that residents can’t burn tree limbs, brush or debris outside, eliminating one of the big risk factors for wildfires.

“There’s not a lot of outside fires,” he said.

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection prohibits open burning in 22 of the state’s largest cities and towns, including Belmont, because of population density and building proximity.

The other advantage Davison said that Belmont has: residents who readily call the fire department at the first sign of a fire. In dry weather, said Davison, the department fields lots of calls for small mulch fires – residents catch them early so they are put out quickly.

The town had a rash of wildfires in the late 80’s and early 90’s, he said, but since then, they haven’t had a problem. There have been no wildfires this year, he said.

“Basically, just be careful outside,” said Davison, when asked what advice he had for residents to avoid wildfires. “No fire pits. If you’re going to have a barbeque, make sure you’re next to it all the time.”

The department does sometimes have issues in areas near train tracks, he said, when trains throw sparks that ignite brush.

“Keep vigilant, keep your eye out,” he said.

Evan Allen can be reached at evan.allen@globe.com

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