Friday, July 9–County, Assateague Ban Burns

BERLIN – The intense
heat and dry conditions that have persisted over the region for weeks caused
county and Assateague Island officials to issue bans on outdoor burning until
further notice.

With temperatures
consistently in the mid- to upper 90s for much of June and early July thus far,
coupled with near drought conditions across much of the lower Eastern Shore,
the Worcester County Fire Marshal’s Office on Wednesday issued a ban on all
outdoor burning. The outdoor burning ban was issued after 12 wildfires occurred
in the county in the last 30 days.

“Since the beginning of
June, the county has experienced an increased number of brush, field and woods
fires,” said Worcester County Fire Marshal Jeff McMahon. “These fires cause
safety concerns for area residents and responding personnel.”

According to McMahon,
the ban applies to all outdoor ignition sources including campfires, bonfires,
fireworks, leaf, grass and trash burning and other methods of incineration. The
ban will remain in effect until the dry conditions dissipate.

While the county’s
outdoor burning ban did not include Assateague Island, officials on the barrier
island issued their own outdoor burning ban later in the day on Wednesday.
Assateague Island National Seashore Superintendent Trish Kicklighter announced
the temporary ban on campfires on Assateague.

“Several weeks of
exceptionally hot and dry weather have raised concern over the risk of wild
fires and the attendant danger to campers and other park visitors,” she said.
“Campfires are the leading cause of wildfires on Assateague.”

The ban began
immediately on Wednesday and will remain in effect until the dry conditions
moderate. The ban on outdoor burning on Assateague applies to all campfires,
including wood and charcoal, in the ocean-side and bayside developed
campgrounds, as well as all primitive backcountry campgrounds. However, the ban
does not apply to campfires on the beach below the high tide line.

Meanwhile, the lack of
rain thus far this summer has left many areas on the shore and across the state
in serious rainfall and soil moisture deficits that are already impacting
agricultural crops significantly, according to Gov. Martin O’Malley.

“We are very concerned
about the situation and are closely monitoring it through our Department of
Agriculture so we can request a disaster designation if it becomes
appropriate,” he said this week. “While agriculture appears to be the most
significantly affected group at this time, it is important for all of us to try
to reduce water consumption.”