Meteorologist says Iowa countryside is ‘extremely combustible’

DES MOINES — Local officials in about a third of Iowa counties have issued outdoor burning bans. National Weather Service meteorologist Rod Donovan says over the past week and a half the satellite data for Iowa shown lots of hot spots and radar has picked up smoke plumes from a lot of field fires.

“We actually had a pretty big fire just west of Colfax going across some grassland yesterday,” Donovan says.

It doesn’t take much to spark a fire in current conditions according to Donovan. “Part of the issue we’ve had across Iowa is really our abnormally short winter, at least abnormally dry and warm across the area,” Donovan says, “…not having a prolonged period of snow cover, a lack of precipitation.”

These conditions have extended the drought. Donovan says pastures, cropland and grassy areas enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program are “extremely combustible” right now.

“It doesn’t take much for an ignition source to create hazardous fire weather conditions,” Donovan says, “warm, very dry, low humilities in addition to these very strong springtime winds that we get across the state.”

The forecast for Iowa indicates March temperatures are likely to be above normal. Donovan says to expect more red flag warnings from the National Weather Service until plants spring to life and fields start turning green.