The heat of summertime is when roaring wildfires are fodder for reports on the national news, but for a few weeks in early spring and mid autumn, the outdoor conditions in northeastern Maryland make this area prone to field and woods fires.
Late last week, and earlier this week brush fires were put out in wooded areas in Joppatowne and Fallston. Other fires have kept the volunteer fire service busy, and can be expected to do so for another two or three weeks.
In the past, Maryland Forest Service staff have explained that in the springtime, a combination of factors make the outdoors vulnerable to errant sparks. The sun is out longer, the air is warmer on average and spring breezes dry out leaves and dead grass very quickly. The result: it doesn't take much to turn a field or wood lot into a smoldering mess, or worse.
Though from time to time such fires can become rather large, a range of weather factors mean most of them burn a few acres or less before being put out. They're still dangerous, however, and can threaten houses and other valuable improvements to real estate.
Traditionally, camping season is when Smokey Bear's warning that "Only you can prevent forest fires" is most widely publicized, but in these parts it's a warning that is worth stressing at this time of year.
In a few weeks when the grass is green and new leaves are on the trees, conditions change just enough to reduce – but not eliminate – the danger of brush fires. Then in the autumn when leaves are off the trees, but before the first hard freeze hits, the danger will spike again.
All the same, it's always a good idea to be careful with anything that could spark a fire at any time of year, but especially at this time of year.