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Wildfire Risks Heightened with Drought Warning in Several Maryland Counties

Spring is Peak Season for Wildland Fire

Wildfire season has begun in Maryland, and the Department of Natural Resources is urging extra precautions in light of a drought warning across parts of the state.

“We’ve already battled a number of wildfires and had several high risk days,” Maryland Forest Service State Fire Supervisor Monte R. Mitchell said. “The occasional wet day won’t be enough to eliminate the threat of fire. During a drought warning, it’s best to avoid outdoor burning, take extra caution handling machinery that is gas-powered or could spark, and properly discard of smoking material. It doesn’t take much for dry grasses to ignite and become a serious problem.”

The Maryland Department of the Environment issued the warning Thursday based on a lack of precipitation that has led to lower-than-normal stream flows and groundwater levels for this time of year in some counties.

The affected region includes Baltimore, Carroll, Cecil, Frederick, Harford, Howard and Montgomery counties, except for areas served by the Baltimore City or Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission public water systems. A drought watch is in effect for the Eastern Shore counties of Caroline, Dorchester, Kent, Queen Anne’s, Somerset, Talbot, Wicomico and Worcester. Rainfall and stream flow levels are below normal in that region as well.

Wildfires occur in every month in Maryland, but peak in the spring and fall. During these seasons the leaves are off the deciduous trees, allowing sunlight and wind to reach the forest floor and dry the leaves, brush, vegetation and other material that can catch fire. Even in normal weather conditions, the relative humidity of the air is also drier and, combined with a breeze, creates the conditions for wildfires to spread rapidly.

Each year, the Maryland Forest Service responds to an average of 260 wildfires that burn 2,600 acres of forest, brush, and grasses.