A snowy winter kept the state's brush fire season at bay into March, but now Maryland forestry officials are conducting controlled burns to prevent accidental blazes later this spring.
The Maryland Department of Natural Resources is conducting burns at Sandy Point State Park and on Hart-Miller Island on Thursday, officials said. Trained forest service crews set the fires using torches fueled by a solution of diesel and gasoline, said Monte Mitchell, state fire superviser with the natural resources department's forest service.
At Sandy Point, crews are burning phragmites, the proper name for the common reed, which is an invasive species and can serve as kindling for wildfires, Mitchell said. Once the reeds are burned off, green grasses containing more moisture can grow in their place.
Wildfire season typically runs from February throgh mid-May, but because of snow, its onset was delayed this year, Mitchell said.
Wildfire risks are highest when weather conditions are dry and windy, common during spring. Some brush fires have already been reported around the state, including one that closed the ramp from Route 50 onto northbound Interstate 97 near Annapolis last month.