Risk for brush fires highest when humidity is so low - WSMV Channel 4

Risk for brush fires highest when humidity is so low

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Brush fires may seem like a problem reserved for warmer weather months, but crews across Tennessee have actually battled hundreds of them just in the last week.

Even in February, experts say, conditions are perfect for brush fires.

"When the humidity is really low, that's going to be one of the prime times when you could have some issues," said 4WARN Chief Meteorologist Lisa Spencer.

Recent cold fronts have created the perfect storm for wildfires: low humidity and high winds. That's why the Tennessee Division of Forestry warns there could be more wildfires if folks aren't careful.

"They can spread rather quickly," said state forestry spokesman Tim Phelps.

A brush fire scorched about 3 acres Monday in Edwin Warner Park after a spark from a passing train ignited the dry grass nearby.

"From trains, from farm equipment like bushhogs that go along. The rotors are underneath and can hit a rock and create a spark," Phelps said.

Experts said the risk for brush fires is highest in the fall and winter before spring rains arrive.

"We have a lot of deciduous trees that lose their leaves that fall to the ground and create a very fine fuel that is easy to light up and start a fire," Phelps said.

Anyone looking to some cleaning around the yard between Oct. 15 and May 15 can get a burn permit, but only if conditions are right.

"No. 1 thing is stay with your fire at all times. It's illegal to leave a fire unattended. It's just common sense," Phelps said.

Also, make sure you keep your piles small, have tools like a rake or water hose handy to douse the fire if it starts to spread and dig a circle of dirt around the fire to contain it.

"It's an efficient way to clean up. We just want people to do it safely," Phelps said.

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