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Dry and Windy Conditions Elevate Wildfire Risk

Firefighters Battle Mountain Fire in Gambrill State Park

With spring’s high winds and dry foliage, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources urges citizens to use caution in outdoor fire activities and postpone open-air burnings. Just last night, nearly 60 firefighters spent two hours battling a five-acre blaze in Gambrill State Park in Frederick County.

“Heavy winds combined with dead, dry leaves from winter, serve as prime conditions for a small, contained fire to quickly transform into a large inferno that threatens lives, property and natural resources,” State Fire Supervisor Monte R. Mitchell said. “Each year, Maryland Forest Service staff, volunteers and local fire departments respond to an average of 500 wildfires that burn more than 4,000 acres of forest, fields and marshlands.”

Around 10 p.m. on Tuesday, March 8, forest service staff, along with fire and rescue crews from Frederick County, worked until early Wednesday morning fighting a mountain fire in Gambrill State Park. The cause of the blaze is under investigation.

Outdoor debris burning remains the leading cause of wildfires in Maryland, accounting for 30 percent of incidents. While outdoor burning is legal in most areas, the Maryland Forest Service strongly recommends safer and more environmentally-friendly alternatives such as composting or mulching yard waste, leaves and brush, and utilizing larger brush or trees for firewood.

All outdoor burning should be postponed until after a significant rainfall and, even then, should only occur on low fire danger days in accordance with the Open Air Burning Regulations.

Homeowners should also be prepared for wildfire events to minimize and prevent losses. In addition to developing a disaster plan, residents should have a safety zone with fire resistant vegetation around their home and outbuildings to prevent a forest fire from spreading to their dwelling.

To learn more about wildfire safety, please visit Firewise Maryland.