Most people probably don’t think of a fast-food drive-up window as a combustible area. But Brian Johnson, division chief for fire prevention for the Londonderry Fire Department, said many so-called “brush fires” actually occur in the drive-through queue.
“People will carelessly discard a cigarette while they’re waiting,” Johnson pointed out. The still-glowing butt can ignite bark mulch on the nearby landscaping, which, he said, can get just as dry as grass.
Johnson and other members of the Londonderry Fire Department are warning residents to be extremely careful over the remainder of the drought that has plagued southern New Hampshire or weeks.
In a phone interview Friday, Johnson noted that he has seen an increase in brush fires over the last few dry weeks. Some are due to improper discarding of smoking materials, frequently when someone’s driving down the road; some to un-extinguished campfires; and some to home fireworks displays.
The department saw, and put out, several fires stemming from the latter on Independence Day and “scattered throughout the week,” Johnson said.
While fireworks are legal in New Hampshire, there are no training programs as there are with firearms. The fireworks manufacturers are required to have safety information on their packages, and fireworks store clerks will also provide safety information “if you ask,” Johnson said. “They are good about giving information.”
But it doesn’t take much for that awe-inspiring display of pyrotechnics to sputter out on dry material.
Johnson exhorts residents determined to shoot off their own fireworks to read the safety instructions, and read them again. “If you still have questions, call the Fire Department,” he said.
Campfires are also a source of brush fires, according to Johnson. In those cases, it’s usually because the fire wasn’t extinguished enough. Londonderry residents are “usually pretty good” about not lighting fires on high-risk days, but anything can happen, according to Johnson. And it will happen if there’s dry material nearby.
Fire pits and gas or charcoal grills are also potential sources of fire, he said.
Johnson urged residents to keep the area around their fire pits, grills or legal campfires free of debris. Put the ash in metal containers, he advised, or really wet it down.
“There was a campfire the other day that the people thought was extinguished,” he said. “We came back the next day for a brush fire – it rekindled on its own.”
A good, soaking rain will take care of the dryness, Johnson observed. But it also takes time, he added, noting, “Everything has to ‘green back up.'”
Until then, Johnson has two words for his Londonderry constituents: “Be careful.”