PROVIDENCE - The Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management (DEM) is advising residents of increased fire danger today for all of Rhode Island. Residents are advised to be cautious when disposing of wood, coal stove, and fireplace ashes. The National Weather Service issued a special weather advisory this morning in response to gusty northwest winds and low relative humidity. All cities and towns and local fire officials should be on the alert, as any fires that develop will have the potential to spread rapidly.
Mid-March through mid-May is the traditional spring brush fire period in Rhode Island. Any outdoor fire is a potential source for a wildfire. State forest rangers note that many brush fires are caused by improper disposal of wood stove ashes. Ashes should always first be put into a metal bucket. Add water to the ashes, stir them up, and be sure to dump the ashes in an area that is not apt to spark, such as dirt. Ashes will still have some embers burning even after three or four days. Charcoal cooking fires should be cold before being discarded. Smokers should use ash trays.
Residents wishing to burn brush outdoors must first receive a permit from their local fire district officials. Open burning is banned in some communities, and limited in others to specific times and weather conditions. Fire departments have the authority to deny permits when conditions are too dangerous. Always check with your local fire department to obtain a permit to burn.
Activities involving the operation of machinery in grassy or wooded areas require additional caution. Sparks from chainsaws and motorcycles, for example, can ignite a brushfire without the operator's knowledge. Dirt bikes and all-terrain vehicles should be in good running condition with mufflers to minimize sparks. With breezy conditions, an unattended fire can quickly get out of control.
For information on ways to protect your home from fire, visit www.firewise.org. For more information on DEM programs and initiatives, visit www.dem.ri.gov. Follow us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/RhodeIslandDEM or on Twitter (@RhodeIslandDEM) for timely updates.