Nearly 100 wildfires have been recorded by the Department of Conservation and Recreation for the month of August, and it appears nothing short of a major storm will douse the persistent flames, Chief Fire Forest Warden David Celino said.
Forest fires have been seen at Lynn Woods, in Rockport and down through Norfolk and Bristol counties, but currently, the biggest hazard is at Breakheart Reservation in Saugus, where at least 12 fires are active, Celino said at a Massachusetts Drought Management Task Force meeting.
Ninety-seven wildfires have been reported this month, Celino said, as this summer’s drought continues to worsen. This week’s rain has helped a bit, but something more substantial will be needed to staunch the issue, he said.
“The fire issue is here and it’s with us long-term until we get a season-ending event, which is a tropical storm over several days,” Celino said. “(The rain) positively impacts ignition potential. What it doesn’t affect is ground-fuel burning that’s ongoing.”
Four of the seven regions the task force monitors — Connecticut River Valley and Central, Northeast and Southeast Massachusetts — remain at a “critical” Level 3 drought, and the board voted Tuesday to upgrade two of the other regions — Western Massachusetts and the Islands — to a “significant” Level 2 drought.
The remaining region, the Cape, now stands somewhere between a Level 2 and Level 3 drought, with task force members split on whether to change its previous significant level designation.
“The situation is obviously not looking great and the impacts, especially on certain sectors, are being seen a lot more,” said Vandana Rao, a task force co-chair representing the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.
Due to the severe drought and numerous wildfires flaring up across the state, there’s now a ban on all open flame and charcoal fires in state parks to prevent wildfires, according to the DCR.
Small portable propane grills are still allowed at campgrounds and recreation areas where grilling is permitted.
“DCR and its partner agencies continue to urge everyone to use caution and common sense when utilizing any open flame or power equipment that can cause sparks or reach high temperatures outdoors,” the department said in a statement.
Rao said it’s good to see that supplies are for the most part holding up and extensive outdoor watering restrictions are being put in place by many water suppliers.
But she mentioned that “in other parts of the state where there’s no public water supply system and people are on wells, even private wells, they do need to exercise the same level of restraint in how much water they’re using outdoors.
“We just don’t want wells drying up or having other issues where they can’t access the water they need for their daily use,” Rao said.
Herald reporter Rick Sobey contributed to this report.