Almost 100 wildfires reported as drought extends

(Courtesy Drought Management Task Force)
(Courtesy Drought Management Task Force)

A rainy Monday helped a bit, but most of Massachusetts has received significantly less precipitation than usual in the past few months, exacerbating the drought that's stifling almost all of the state.

Between May 25 and Aug. 22, most of Suffolk, Norfolk, Middlesex and Essex counties received between one-quarter and half as much precipitation as they typically did in that stretch over a 30-year period, while central and western Massachusetts saw between 50-75% of average precipitation, according to data presented to the Drought Management Task Force on Tuesday.

The weather got even drier in the past month, with only between 10-25% of the normal precipitation falling in a U-shaped stretch of the state from Worcester to Boston and up to Cape Ann and no more than half the average amount in large sections of the rest of the state.

Most of Massachusetts is in a "critical drought," the second-most severe of five levels, under the latest Aug. 9 designation from the state Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs. Cape Cod is in a slightly less dramatic "significant drought," while the islands and the westernmost stretch of the state are in a "mild drought."

Chief Forest Fire Warden Dave Celino told the drought task force his department has received reports of 97 wildfires so far in August, a number that is likely to increase amid ongoing dry conditions. Celino said the latest rain improved the outlook but only slightly.

"It positively affects ignition potential. What it doesn't affect is ground fuel burning that's ongoing," he said.



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