Wildfire danger in Maryland increases in spring

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Spring forest fire season started in Maryland, and the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) urges residents across the state to prepare for and help prevent wildfires.

Wildfire frequency is highest in spring and fall, when forest fuels are driest and weather conditions – hot, dry, and windy – are most conducive to fire spread. On days when this threat is most likely, the department will issue a “red flag” status.

“We have already seen fires this season and urge residents to take precautions and be vigilant,” Maryland Forest Service said state fire supervisor Chris Robertson. “Our state and local firefighters are prepared for the season, and we are asking for the public’s help in preventing dangerous incidents that can threaten lives, property and natural resources.”

Each year, the Maryland Forest Service responds to an average of 122 wildfires that burn 1,050 acres of forest, brush, and grasses. The DNR also helps equip and train local Maryland volunteer fire companies to fight wildfires through its Voluntary Fire Assistance Program.

The leading cause of wildfires in Maryland is burning debris or any type of open air burning, which accounts for 30% of fires in the state. Lightning is the only natural source of fire ignition but represents only 6% of fire outbreaks.

The Maryland Forest Service recommends safer and more environmentally friendly alternatives to burning outdoor debris, including composting or mulching yard waste, leaves, and brush, and using brush or trees bigger as firewood.

Outdoor burning should only be done on days when the fire risk is low. State regulations apply to activities in the woods and within 200 feet of the woods, or activities adjacent to or within an area where flammable materials are present.

Open burning is only permitted if:

  • There is a natural or constructed fire barrier at least 10 feet wide all around the material to be burned that is free of flammable materials;
  • Adequate personnel and equipment are present to prevent the fire from escaping;
  • At least one responsible person remains at the scene of the fire until the last spark is extinguished; and
  • Burning takes place between 4 p.m. and midnight, unless the ground is covered with snow.

Residents should check with their county or municipal health department for local regulations and permit requirements before burning.

More information on open burning is available on the MRN website.


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