Rangers urge safety to avoid more wildfires in New England

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NEW ENGLAND (AP) — Dry conditions and carelessness with fire have fueled a spate of wildfires this spring across parts of New England, and officials urged caution at cookouts and campsites this holiday weekend.

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

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 in western Massachusetts and state officials said it was the state’s largest wildland fire in more than two decades.

Vegetation has begun to turn green and that will help to reduce the fire hazard as spring progresses, but the region is coming off several months of arid weather, with persistent sere conditions contributing to fires. 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. Portland, Maine, was about 4.8 inches below normal, and Concord, New Hampshire, about 4.3 inches below normal on March 1, said Derek Schroeter, a meteorologist from the National Weather Service.

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