Before you fire up the grill or the fire pit this summer, be sure to check and see if there are any red flag warnings or fire weather watches. A fire weather watch is issued when weather conditions are favorable for dangerous fire conditions. A red flag fire warning means that fire conditions such as dry or windy weather are currently happening and a fire could very easily spread and become out of control. Extreme caution is urged during these times.
These warnings are issued for weather events by the national weather service and while you may think of brushfires and the woods when you hear about these warnings, you should also consider your own backyard. Extreme fire behavior can happen absolutely anywhere, and fires driven by high winds tend to spread quickly and without warning. These weather conditions could exist most of the year, but spring, summer, and fall are the most common seasons for watches and red flag warnings.
If, for example, your lawn is dried out, an abandoned cigarette butt could ignite the dry grass, especially in strong winds. Warm, windy weather is considered critical fire weather, and fire departments are on high alert during those times. Once a red flag warning is issued the extreme fire danger can occur within 24 hours. During these weather watches and red flag warnings, you should refrain from making any fires in your yard including fire pits and barbecues, especially charcoal barbecues. All it takes is one spark to fly loose and catch on any of the dry fuels in your yard, such as dry grass or leaves, and you could have an out-of-control fire on your hands that could be extremely dangerous to both life and property.
Fire watches and warnings are reviewed daily and as soon as weather patterns change they can be altered or lifted. Once they are lifted it is considered safe to have carefully supervised fires, so break out the hot dogs and hamburgers again and be sure to stay safe!