Fire officials warn that the extreme heat and drought conditions make for a dangerous combination.
Union Fire Protection District Chief Russ Hamilton said the prolonged period of no rain along with triple digit temperatures and low humidity are excellent conditions for destructive fires, like the blaze that destroyed several buildings at a New Haven area farm Wednesday night.
“In these dry conditions, fires can ignite and spread quickly,” said Hamilton.
He added that there normally is an increase in brush or grass fires in late summer but expects to see that increase come sooner due to the dry weather.
Union crews already have fought brush fires, including a Wednesday night fire at Reikers Ford Road.
Hamilton added that firefighters also have responded to several grass fires along roadways that were most likely started by discarded cigarettes.
One grass fire was the result of a homeowner cutting their grass when a spark from the muffler ignited nearby brush, he said.
“The Union area is certainly in need of rain,” Hamilton said. “We are asking citizens to refrain from any outside burning which includes recreational type fires.”
There also are concerns for fire crews when they are fighting fires due not only to the heat from the blaze, but also from gear.
“In addition to the fire concern the high temperatures can be a challenge to firefighters as their protective clothing adds additional weight to them along with holding in their body heat,” Hamilton said. “Fighting a fire this time of year adds more stress to the firefighter’s body thus their work time is limited — as a result the need for breaks are increased. It is very easy to become overheated and exhausted during the summer months.”
During the July 4 holiday, Hamilton is asking residents to use caution while celebrating.
“Fireworks are often the cause of fires this time of year,” he said.
There was a fire July 21, 2011, at a Lost Pines Drive mobile home resulting in the home being destroyed when embers from exploding fireworks landed on the roof and fell down into debris stored up against the home, Hamilton said.
“The debris fire spread into the home’s eaves then into the attic,” he said. “The home was a total loss.”
Hamilton also warned that celebrations can turn unpleasant when children or adults become injured while using fireworks.
“Every year people nationwide are treated in emergency rooms for firework associated injuries,” he said. “The majority of injuries are burns involving the hands, eyes, and head. Injuries can easily occur if the user fails to follow the manufacturer’s instructions and safety precautions.”
Following are recommendations for residents before they use fireworks:
• Find out if they are allowed in your area;
• Read and follow the directions and warning labels;
• Never stand over a firework devise;
• Never light a firework inside a building, near flammable materials, or near dry grass;
• Never experiment with homemade fireworks;
• Have a bucket of water or a fire extinguisher nearby; and
• Supervise children at all times.
“Keep in mind the best way to enjoy fireworks is to visit a public display put on by professionals who know how to handle them safely,” said Hamilton