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Dry Conditions Elevate Fire Danger
Debris Burning Leading Cause of Maryland Wildfires
Annapolis, MD - – Current dry conditions across Maryland are elevating the risk of fire and have already lead to an increase in the number of wildfires in the State. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Forest Service urges caution in any outdoor activity that could spark a wildfire.
“Current weather conditions of warmer temperatures, low humidity and high winds, can easily turn small fires into dangerous incidents that threaten lives, property, and natural resources,” explained State Fire Supervisor Monte R. Mitchell. “Each year, DNR Forest Service staff, responds to an average of 660 wildfires that burn more than 3,600 acres of forest, fields, and marshlands.”
There have been an above normal number of wildfires in Maryland this year with 223 incidents burning 4,652 acres.
Debris and outdoor burning remains the leading cause of wildfires in Maryland, accounting for over 30 percent of the wildfires that occur in the state. Other causes include arson, children, and equipment use. Lightning, the only natural source of fire ignition, accounts for less than 2 percent of wildfire starts in Maryland.
While outdoor debris burning is legal in most areas of the state, the Maryland Forest Service strongly recommends other safer and more environmentally friendly alternatives such as composting or mulching of yard waste, leaves, and brush and utilizing larger brush or trees for firewood.
The Department is currently recommending that outdoor burning be postponed until after significant rainfall of an inch or more. Even then, it should only be done on low fire danger days.
DNR Open Air Burning Regulations must be followed for all activities in woodlands, within 200 feet of woodlands and adjacent to or within an area where flammable materials could ignite and carry fire to woodlands.
A person may not engage in open air burning except under the following conditions:
(1) There is a natural or constructed fire break at least 10 feet wide completely around the material to be burned that is free of flammable materials;
(2) Adequate personnel and equipment are present to prevent the fire from escaping;
(3) At least one responsible person remains at the location of the fire until the last spark is out; and
(4) Burning occurs between the hours of 4 p.m. and 12 midnight E.S.T., except that when the ground is covered with snow the burning may occur at any time so long as all other requirements are met.
“Homeowners also have a responsibility for wildfire preparedness in order to minimize and prevent losses when a wildfire occurs,” added Mitchell.
Creating defensible space – an area of at least 30 feet surrounding the home and outbuildings – serves as a safety zone around the structures. Within this area, the vegetation should be controlled and the area free of dead debris, leaves, and flammable vegetation in order to prevent a wildfire from spreading from the forest to the structure. Maintaining a green space that is landscaped with fire resistant vegetation improves the safety zone. In addition, each household should prepare a disaster plan.
More information visit the Forest Service Wildland Fire Management website at: http://www.dnr.state.md.us/forests/wfm.asp.
March 23, 2009
Contact: Ray Weaver
410-260-8002 office I 410-507-7526 cell
Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is the state agency responsible for providing natural and living resource-related services to citizens and visitors. DNR manages more than 449,000 acres of public lands and 17,000 miles of waterways, along with Maryland's forests, fisheries and wildlife for maximum environmental, economic and quality of life benefits. A national leader in land conservation, DNR-managed parks and natural, historic and cultural resources attract 12 million visitors annually. DNR is the lead agency in Maryland's effort to restore the Chesapeake Bay, the state's number one environmental priority. Learn more at www.dnr.maryland.gov