Brush Fire Danger High, Caution Urged by Fire Officials

With the snow melting away from shrubbery and grass, the fire danger is very high, according to Londonderry Fire Marshal Brian Johnson, who advises people to be cautious discarding smoking materials.

“The shrubbery and grass hasn’t greened up yet, so it’s all very dry. A brush fire burns very quickly across the top because the ground underneath is still very wet,” he said. “When the sun is out and there’s a strong breeze, brush fires spread very fast.”

The main cause of brush fires is smoking materials that are discarded improperly, such as a cigarette tossed out a car window or thrown into brush at a park.

The Fire Department has already responded to two brush fires in Londonderry – a small fire along Interstate 93 on April 3, and a fire in front of the old Market Basket on April 15.

In addition to improperly disposed of smoking materials, Johnson said older ATV (all-terrain vehicle) equipment can release sparks that ignite brush fires.

Homeowners should also be cautious of bark mulch that is spread up against their house.

“Older bark mulch is very dry, that’s where we see a lot of small fires, like at McDonald’s along the drive-thru. People should be using the same caution at home,” Johnson said. “If you throw smoking materials outside into dry bark mulch, it does ignite very quickly. And if the mulch is along the side of the house, it can spread to the home very quickly.”

Johnson said the key message is to use caution with outside burning and discarding smoking materials, particularly when the weather is dry and windy.

The National Weather Service issued a “red flag warning” restricting burning in most of the State due to dry air and strong breezes on April 15, and Johnson said Londonderry was not issuing permits for burning brush on April 16 because of the amount of dry material in the area and the potential for a fire to spread quickly.

“The State does the weather every day, then sends out a report of danger for the State,” Johnson said. “The Battalion Chief on duty will then make a decision on what permits we will be allowing.”

Residents may check the Fire Department’s page on the Town website at for updates on the State fire danger level. Those with a burn permit may call 432-1100, ext. 311, or 421-1380 for outside seasonal burning. The new message system makes it easier for residents to find out if the Department is allowing burning, and what types of fires are permitted that day.

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