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Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Rotorcraft Report: Possibility of Fire High Throughout United States

PUBLIC SERVICE/FIRE

It’s fire season in the Northeastern United States, where branches starved of water are vulnerable to lightning strikes from spring thunderstorms and campers eager to commune with nature who leave smoldering embers behind.

It’s still fire season in the West, where wildfires have devastated thousands of acres and destroyed homes. It doesn’t look like it’s going to end, due to the lack of rain this past winter, said Lee Benson, a senior pilot with the Los Angeles County Fire Dept.

In fact, according to the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, fire season is all year around. This year, through the end of June, the center forecasts, there is the potential for higher than normal fire outbreaks from the Pacific Northwest to the western Great Lakes region, as well as in Southern California, western Arizona, and portions of the Southeast.

Drought conditions across the Northwestern states and a snowpack that has been below normal is contributing to the potential for fire.

In the spring, the increased chance of fire occurs in the Southeast and goes clockwise around the country by season.

True to that, as we went to press, hundreds of firefighters were working what was reported to be largest wildfire in the history of the state of Georgia history.

The national center reported three fires in that state. The Waycross Fire had burned more than 30,000 acres and was threatening the national wildlife refuge in the Okefenokee Swamp.

Among those joining in the fight against that fire were two National Guard CH-47 Chinooks from Hunter Army Airfield.

Fires cannot be predicted, said Robyn Heffernan, an assistant fire weather program manager and meteorologist with the national center, but those in the field know the factors that create potential for fire. A variety of factors influence that, including weather, dry brush, and lightning strikes.

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