Despite significant rainfall across much of Massachusetts on Monday and Tuesday, drought conditions continue to spark widespread wildfires.
On Monday, Georgetown became the latest in a series of towns to experience a wildfire, with the city’s fire department containing a wildfire in the Georgetown-Rowley State Forest, according to a news release.
Wildfire Chief Dave Celino said Tuesday there were 12 active wildfires still going on in the state, The Boston Globe reported. He said some were over 75 acres, such as Breakheart Reservation in Saugus and Lynn Woods Reservation in Lynn.
In August alone, Celino told the state’s drought task force that his department had received reports of 97 wildfires, WBUR reported. That number is expected to increase before the end of the month, he said.
The state’s Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs announced Aug. 9 that four of Massachusetts’ seven drought regions are experiencing “critical drought.”
This is only one level less than the most severe of the five drought levels, called “emergency drought”.
According to the National Weather Service, between May 25 and August 22, most counties in Suffolk, Norfolk, Middlesex and Essex received between a quarter and a half as much precipitation as they normally would based on an average over 30 years.
Central and western Massachusetts fared a little better, seeing between 50% and 75% of the region’s average precipitation during that time, the NWS reported.
August exacerbated the drought, the weather service reported, with much of Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk and Worcester counties seeing between 10% and 25% of their average rainfall for the month. Most of the rest of the state saw between 25% and 50% of normal precipitation.
NWS meteorologist Bill Simpson said we will need to see a few months of normal to above normal rainfall before the drought ends.
“Hopefully we get into a pattern this fall where we get more regular rains. It will help bite into the drought,” he said.
In the meantime, the World reported, the Department of Conservation and Recreation announced on Tuesday that until further notice, a temporary ban is in place on all open flame and charcoal fires in the Massachusetts state park system to prevent forest fires.
The newspaper also reported that the wildfires that are still burning are expected to continue until there is enough rain to smother them.
The State House News Service (SHNS) reported on Tuesday that another impact of the drought has been low river flows, with some rivers even recording record highs. He also reported that Agriculture Ministry officials said the drought had caused farmers to have undersized crops.
Meanwhile, SHNS reported that many municipalities and water agencies are restricting outdoor water use, calling on households to limit or stop watering their lawns and new plants.
Of the state’s 345 water management systems, he reported, 168 now have water restrictions in place.
Some cities are even trying to punish those who break the restrictions. Cohasset, he reported, on Monday banned all non-essential outdoor water use and threatened fines of between $50 and $100 for violations.
SHNS reported that officials are asking people who rely on wells to exercise the same level of restraint in their outdoor water use.
“We just don’t want the wells to dry up or have other issues preventing them from accessing the water they need for their daily use,” said Vandana Rao, director of policy. water for the AEE.
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