Rangers urge safety to avoid more wildfires in New England

Dry conditions and carelessness with fire has fueled a spate of wildfires this spring across parts of New England, and officials urged caution at cookouts and campsites this holiday weekend.

Going into the weekend, the Maine Forest Service had responded to nearly 430 wildfires, a concerning number.

Forest rangers urged campers make sure their campfire is fully extinguished before leaving it. They also urged people to obey open burning laws and to obtain a permit before burning brush.

Property owners burning brush sparked a forest fire in Killington, Vermont earlier this month. Firefighters fought the fire for a number of days in steep and difficult terrain. Also this month a brush fire spread across nearly 1,000 acres (405 hectares) in western Massachusetts and state officials said it was the state’s largest wildland fire in more than two decades.

Dry conditions are contributing to fires and persisting. And scattered showers this weekend won’t alter that, officials said.

The drought monitor released on Thursday showed most of Maine is “abnormally dry” while most of New Hampshire and Vermont are abnormally dry or in a moderate drought.

The region is coming off several months of dry weather.

Portland, Maine, was about 4.8 inches below normal and Concord, New Hampshire, about 4.3 inches below normal in March 1, said Derek Schroeter, meteorologist from the National Weather Service.

Vegetation has begun to turn green and that will help to reduce the fire hazard as spring progresses.