Be Careful in the Woods During the Dry Conditions

14 Aug

The state Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs declared August 13th that there is a Level 2 drought in all seven regions of the state. Officials are asking the public to conserve water and to be careful because of an increased risk of brush fires.

“The combination of three months of limited rainfall and well above normal temperatures through July and early August have led to very dry conditions in every region of Massachusetts,” Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides said. “All levels of government are coordinating to address these critical drought conditions, and it is essential that residents and businesses across the commonwealth take extra care to conserve water both indoors and outdoors and be mindful of the increased risk of wildlife when using any fire or smoking materials.”

Temperatures have averaged well above normal this summer, with the state recording the second-hottest July on record. Rainfall has been scattered, with most areas being in deficit by 1-3 inches. Temperatures so far in August have been 2-4 degrees above normal, she said.

Because of the scattered rains, stream flow saw some improvement in July, but conditions are worsening in August, officials said.  In mid August, fire crews were battling a multi-day brush fire on Tully Mountain in Orange that forced the closure of hiking trails there, with National Guard helicopters ferrying water drops to combat the fire in difficult terrain.  Due to the very dry conditions, the fire was found to be burning through the foot deep duff layer making it very difficult to put out.

A similar fire on Joshua Hill in Leverett burned more than 60 acres and took more than a month to extinguish, only eventually going out after heavy rains in July.

If working in the woods, make sure that exhaust screens and mufflers are in place on saws and heavy machinery to prevent sparks, and keep fuels and flammable materials away from hot engines to prevent accidental ignitions.  Carry fire extinguishers on skidders or other machines to try to put out a fire if one should start.

Call 911 immediately should a fire break out to get help moving quickly to control any fire before it gets too large.