Dry weather, brush fires keep Arundel firefighters on alert County's crews working longer hours, extra shifts because of rampant blazes

Regional News

November 29, 1998|By Kirsten Scharnberg | Kirsten Scharnberg,SUN STAFF

After an excessively dry autumn, Anne Arundel County firefighters have been working long hours and extra days to respond to rampant brush fires throughout the region.

The county Fire Department has been scheduling 42 extra firefighters each day for the past several weeks, and tomorrow officials plan to evaluate whether the past week's rainfall was enough to ease the risk for spot fires.

"Right now, we're just making sure we keep enough people on duty to staff the required brush units," said Chief John Scholz. "And this has certainly increased our daily staffing."

Scholz said that as of about 10 days ago, the department had responded to 1,290 brush fires.

During 1997, firefighters responded to 800.

"We're way above our usual plateau," he said.

The extra staffing likely will cause the department to spend extra money on overtime, but Scholz said that there is no estimate yet on how much will be spent.

Statewide, dry weather and the resulting brush fires have led to increased precautions.

All permits for open-air burning of yard waste and farm fields have been canceled, and campfires on state land are forbidden. The only outdoor fires allowed are small campfires on private land, campfires at Assateague State Park and fires within the few towns that are granting local permits, state officials said.

Alan Zentz, state fire supervisor for the Department of Natural Resources, has said that this year brought one of the most severe fall fire seasons in at least a decade.

On a standard scale of 1 to 800, the fire risk stands at 700, compared with an average of 450 or less in November, the most fire-prone month.

Pub Date: 11/29/98

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