Friday, April 13, 2012

'Perfect recipe' for wildfires as season starts early

By Miguel Llanos,

The U.S.?wildfire season that typically starts in late spring has taken off this month, with crews tackling fires up and down the East Coast in recent days.

Twenty-five?states, all east of the Rockies,?posted their warmest January-March periods on record, and many Northeastern states have had their driest starts ever.

"Those two factors, and recent wind, is a perfect recipe for fire" in the eastern U.S., Weather Channel meteorologist Mike Seidel told NBC News.

?Humidity also also been low, and there's lots of fuel in the form of brush to burn.

"We haven't seen many rainstorms nor snowstorms and all the vegetation that grew up rapidly from?last winter's rainfall is just all?dry and ready to burn," noted meteorologist Janice Huff of New York's WNBC-TV.

On Wednesday, the immediate threat shifted west as?"red flag warnings" advising of severe fire potential were posted for parts of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.

Those states have seen above average temperatures, and some are also in drought.

The eastern U.S., meanwhile, wasn't completely off the hook on Wednesday.?Parts of Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia?and West Virginia were facing red flag warnings.

Moreover, New Jersey saw a new brush fire on Wednesday just off the state turnpike near the Izod Center arena.

On Tuesday,?crews battled brush and wildfires in several eastern states.

On New York's Long Island, two brush fires merged into one that consumed three homes and nine business properties across 1,000 acres before firefighters got the upper hand.

Seth Wenig / AP

This home on New York's Long Island was among three destroyed Tuesday by a brush fire.

In Florida, most?of which is in drought,?89 wildfires were burning as of Tuesday, according to the Florida Forest Service.

Eighteen fires were larger than 100 acres and the largest, a lightning-sparked blaze?in the?Osceola National Forest near the border with Georgia, more than doubled on Tuesday to?25,000 acres burned.

National Interagency Coordination Center

Across the nation, the next few months do not look any better.

"Severe to extreme drought conditions continue for much of eastern New Mexico, western Texas, parts of the upper Midwest and much of the Southeast coast," the National Interagency Fire Center said in its outlook posted on April 1. "Worsening drought was occurring over much of the Southwest including California and the Great Basin."

"During May through July above normal temperatures are likely across most of the Southwest and Great Basin, and the Gulf and East coast states from Texas to Maine," it added.

National Interagency Coordination Center

As for Florida, it "will remain the highest fire risk area into May," the center warned.

NBC's Tom Costello contributed to this report.

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