Windy, dry conditions spur red flag warning for brush fires

April 3, 2013 2:37:39 PM PDT
Windy and dry conditions have prompted a red flag warning for brush fires across a broad section of the East, including eastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.

The National Weather Service says gusty winds, along with humidity levels as low as 20 percent, mean there is a "great potential" for wildfires in the area through the day along with the possibility any blazes that do start could easily spread.

In some areas, winds are expected to gust to as high as 30 mph.

Action News was in Mizpah, New Jersey Wednesday, where we were welcomed to the rather cozy 7' x 7' world of New Jersey Forest Fire Service Observer Larry Birch.

"Constantly looking around for any type of smoke that comes up," he said.

For most of us Birch's view looks like acres and acres of trees. But for Birch it is acres and acres of FUEL awaiting an errant spark that could flare up and become a forest fire that could burn thousands of acres.

The red flag warning means conditions are ripe for fires. It is very dry and very windy.

"At 19 miles an hour with gusts up to 30, the low humidity," said Birch, "it really equals a higher fire danger, and fire can rapidly spread."

On Wednesday Birch was manning one of six towers that overlook more than a million acres in south Jersey. Among the biggest concerns is people burning leaves.

"We will pick up on smoke like that and send somebody over before it gets out of control," said Birch.

If a fire does spread, pilot Ed Carter will be among the first to be called in, flying a fire-fighting turboprop plane.

"I can cover anywhere in Division C in 15 minutes," said Carter, of Downtown Aero Service, adding that he drops just water on fires such as these.

The warnings extend from Virginia north to New York and Connecticut and will stay in effect into the evening hours Wednesday.