Spring fire season is a regular occurrence in the eastern U.S. It’s not nearly as dramatic as what’s seen across the West, mostly due to the region’s increased rainfall and high humidity, but it can cause serious damage. Wildfires have scorched 351,821 acres so far this year, and firefighters throughout the mid-Atlantic and South remain on alert, with “red flag” warnings and burn bans across multiple states.

Things got off to a roaring start in southern New Jersey, where firefighters have battled 160 wildfires, four of which were major. The largest of them tore a streak across the rural Pine Barrens region and saw 200-foot walls of flames earlier this month; it burned nearly 4,000 acres, driven by record heat that included nighttime temperatures rarely dropping below the 60s. As in the West, warming conditions driven by climate change are leading to longer fire seasons that begin earlier in the year.

“We’re seeing this peak fire season that was confined to about a two-to-three month period extending into a four-to-five month period,” Greg McLaughlin, administrator and chief of the New Jersey Forest Fire Service, told WHYY News. Fire season in the Garden State typically runs from March through May, but these days it’s been starting in February and heading into late June and early July, he said.

Unusually warm temperatures, low humidity, and gusting winds drove the fires that burned thousands of acres in Pendleton County, West Virginia, and in Daniel Boone National Forest in south-central Kentucky last week.

In coastal North Carolina, 245 federal and state firefighters continue battling a blaze that has blackened 36,000 acres in Croatan National Forest. The conflagration started last Wednesday evening, and crews have contained just 15 percent of it. The immense amount of smoke has led to air quality warnings in 21 nearby counties, encouraging residents to stay inside and limit outdoor exercise. While the Croatan is adapted to fire, which is a normal part of the ecosystem, officials say the current blaze is unusually large — the second worst in the forest’s history.

Read the full article about spring wildfires by Katie Myers at Grist.