Following a series of National Weather Service alerts citing heightened wildfire dangers caused by high winds and very dry conditions, the state Department of Conservation and Recreation is urging the public to step up safety precautions.
There have been over 330 wildfires statewide in recent weeks, according to DCR, with only one caused by lightning. Nearly 900 acres have burned, the department stated.
On April 25, a brushfire that spun out of control along the Richmond/West Stockbridge town line was put out by the fire department serving the two towns, with mutual aid from 10 departments, including Stockbridge, Canaan and East Chatham, N.Y., among others from Columbia County.
No rain has fallen in Berkshire County for the past 10 days, but government forecasters and AccuWeather.com predict scattered showers and thunderstorms beginning Saturday, but more likely on Sunday and Monday as more humid air replaces the prolonged dry spell marked by abnormally low humidity levels.
Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Beth Card declared a Level 1 Mild Drought in southeast Massachusetts, Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, not including Cape Cod, after months of sporadic rainfall totals resulting in below average precipitation numbers. in eastern Massachusetts.
“The vast majority of wildland fires are started because of human actions, such as a poorly extinguished campfire, which can threaten the public’s forests and parks and endanger public safety and infrastructure,” Acting DCR Commissioner Stephanie Cooper stated. “That is why it is so important that we all are aware of the elevated risks of a fire when the weather is especially dry and remain diligent in practicing fire prevention methods.”
DCR works with local fire departments on fire detection, suppression and prevention, according to the statement, beginning with wildfire spotters at 42 active fire towers statewide.
“Massachusetts’ typical spring fire season has been active recently, which has been exacerbated by the high frequency of windy conditions and low humidity, leading to increased fire activity and larger fire growth,” said DCR Chief Fire Warden Dave Celino. “Under these conditions, it’s important that we ensure fires are managed safely and extinguished completely to prevent future wildfires.”
The state agency urged residents to beware of dry conditions when using charcoal grills, matches and other open flames during outdoor activities, and to ensure that fires are properly and completely extinguished.