The Long Island region of New York State can experience wildfire conditions at any time of year.
In winter, some years have experienced a nearly open winter where snowfall has occurred periodically but hasn’t accumulated and stayed for any length of time. With the prevailing dry air mass from Canada predominating the area during winter, wildfires can occur when there is no snow in the woods. These fires are almost always very small in size, typically in grasslands.
The spring fire season starts with snowmelt which is usually somewhere between late February and mid March. Full leaf out generally occurs around the first or second week of May. Before leaf out, solar radiation increases fuel temperatures and dries out fine fuels on the forest floor. The spring is the primary season for wildfire, especially the month of April, is when we experience dry air masses and high winds, sometimes resulting in relative humidities in the 20’s and lower. April is when Long Island begins to experience the sea breeze as well which can result in 180 degree wind shifts around mid-day. These are critical fire weather conditions which can and have led to large fires. These fires are usually fast wind driven surface fires.
The second primary season is the summer fire season. Fine fuel moisture rises due to leaf out and rising humidities due to the sea breeze and other maritime influences on Long Island. Occasionally, prolonged periods of little to no rain occur resulting in drought conditions. The Pine Barrens of Long Island contain fire adapted species that burn very well. When a dry air mass moves in, conditions for wildfire become ripe. Under drought conditions, these fires require a lot more suppression effort because you are more apt to be dealing with ground fire in addition to surface fire. The summer fire season typically occurs in the months of June, July and August, and into September. Long Island’s largest historical fires have occurred under these conditions.
Fall wildfire seasons are not as common, but can be an extension of the summer fire season if drought persists. Under usual conditions, September and October usually see a fair amount of rain. The trees start to lose their leaves in November and finish in December. This can add dry fine fuels to the forest floor.
Areas of historic large wildfires in this region occur in the Pine Barrens.