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What's a 'Red Flag Warning'? What Should You Do About It?

With many states in the northeastern U.S. already suffering from hazardous air quality, here's what you need to know to stay safe if your area is at high risk for wildfire.

dry grass burning at sunset
(TNS) — A “red flag warning” is when weather conditions in an area are at risk for spreading wildfires due to multiple risk factors that include strong winds, low humidity and dry fuels, according to the National Weather Service.

Here are guidelines to follow during a “red flag warning.”

What are you supposed to do or avoid when there is a ‘red flag warning'?

You’re supposed to follow all fire restrictions and burn bans in your region during high risk periods, according to the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC). You should obtain permits, if needed.

The NWS says that any outdoor burning, such as the use of outdoor grills, is not recommended during a red flag warning. You should also avoid using lawn mowers, chainsaws and other equipment during high risk times.

Make sure that if you have started a fire outdoors, extinguish it properly by drowning it with water or soaking charcoal and ash in water. Never leave a fire unattended, and if you see any unattended outdoor fires, report it by calling 911 immediately.

If by any chance you are allowed to burn in your area during a “red flag warning,” burn barrels should be covered with a weighted metal covering. Holes within that covering should be no more than three-fourths of an inch.

You should never throw away cigarettes or matches out of a moving vehicle because it could catch fire on a piece of grass and start a wildfire, according to the NWS. Prevent trailer chains from dragging on the ground.

Also, avoid driving over tall, dry grass, as the bottom of cars are hot and can cause grass to catch fire, according to the IAFC.

Why are New Jersey and other states under a 'red flag warning'?

New Jersey and other states are under a “red flag warning” because of hot, dry and unstable conditions. Also, wildfires in eastern Canada are causing smoke to travel south into the northeastern U.S.

The smoke, in turn, is causing unsafe air quality levels throughout the region.

This prompted the weather service to issue an alert to these states warning “sensitive groups,” such as the elderly, children or people with chronic conditions such as asthma, to remain indoors.

According to The World Health Organization, polluted air increases the risk of respiratory infections, lung cancer and heart disease.

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