- Associated Press - Monday, October 24, 2016

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - Drought conditions are making it harder to fight wildfires and residents should be vigilant about the increased threat, state forestry and fire officials say.

Conditions range from abnormally dry to extreme drought in southern New Hampshire, making this fire season more challenging and potentially more dangerous than normal, they said.

Steven Sherman, chief of the state’s Forest Protection Bureau, says the potential for large wildfires is real as forest fuels continue to dry and new fuels are added with falling leaves.

“The wildfires that we experienced during late summer and early fall have been very labor-intensive to suppress,” he said.

Authorities say fall is usually a busy time for wildfire activity with campfires, debris burning, careless disposal of smoking materials and ashes being the primary causes.

Authorities say a spark from any type of power equipment can start a wildfire. One was caused recently in Coos County in conjunction with a timber harvest when a trailer safety chain came into contact with a rock and sparked.

At a meeting last week, the state’s Drought Management Team said 20 percent of the state is experiencing abnormally dry conditions and 80 percent is experiencing moderate to extreme drought conditions. The current U.S. Seasonal Drought Outlook indicates little improvement in the southern portion of the state, but potential for improvement in the north by the end of January.

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