Smoke from the Fresh Kills brush fire in Staten Island

As temperatures continue to rise (um, a high of 86 today?!) and rains continue to evade us, brush fires are becoming a very real danger for New Yorkers. Last week, more than 100 firefighters stopped a blaze in Central Park, and a massive fire in Freshkills Park on Staten Island took more than 17 hours to extinguish. While brush fires and wildfires are an annual concern for more rural areas during fire season, the unusually hot and dry weather is making the same true for NYC.

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Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re well aware that it’s been heating up in NYC for quite some time. Central Park saw the warmest February ever recorded, and this was the second warmest winter for the Big Apple. The rest of the country experienced similar temperatures, with thousands of record highs being broken in the first week of January. Today’s temperatures are expected to break or reach more record highs; the projected high of 86 for New York City is nearly 30 degrees higher than the April average of 60.

Friday’s second-alarm fire in Central Park started on a compost pile that spread to mulch, brush, and fallen trees; the cause is under investigation. Hurricane Irene left piles of damaged trees after it swept through NYC last August, leaving plenty for stray sparks to ignite. Neil Calvanese, vice president of operations for the Central Park Conservancy, told the Wall Street Journal that fires like this have been rare over several decades for the park. “It’s been luxurious the last three years in terms of rain so this is kind of a shock,” he said. “You can’t put enough water on the lawns and plant beds. Hopefully it turns around soon.”

On Monday, April 9, a massive 5-alarm fire spread through the former Fresh Kills landfill (now Freshkills Park) in Staten Island, and the blaze rapidly spread because of high, fast-shifting winds. Other brush fires also broke out in Connecticut, New Jersey, and Long Island. With a warm, dry forecast for the week, it’s likely that the region’s brush fires are far from over.

Via The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal

Lead image © Bob Jagendorf via Flickr Creative Commons