Wildfires continued to burn in western and northeastern Maryland yesterday, and the extremely dry conditions prompted Gov. Parris N. Glendening to issue the first statewide ban on open-air burning since 1998. The governor also asked residents in 10 counties to conserve water.
At Aberdeen Proving Ground in Harford County, three fires have burned about 1,500 acres on restricted test ranges on the Aberdeen peninsula since last week, said Deputy Chief Robert C. Berry of APG Fire and Emergency Services. He said a helicopter equipped with a 250-gallon bucket was dumping water on the fires and crews were moving lights into Briar Point, just north of Romney Creek, so they could continue working last night.
FOR THE RECORD - An article in Saturday's editions of The Sun about fires in western Maryland misspelled the name of Little Allegheny Mountain in Allegany County.
The Sun regrets the error.
South of Romney Creek, a second fire, touched off by munitions testing Thursday, jumped Abbey Point Road, Berry said, but firefighters had contained it by yesterday afternoon.
Fires are common in the fall on APG testing ranges, Berry said, and every four or five years an overgrown forest floor becomes a prime location for a large fire. But he added that in 28 years with the service, "I have yet to see the fire go outside the gate or the [restricted] fence line."
Although this week's fire compelled officials at APG to halt some testing, the war in Afghanistan makes such actions difficult, said James Fasig, technical director for the Aberdeen Test Center.
Meanwhile, a fire appeared to be under control late yesterday in Allegany County in Western Maryland. At one point, the fire covered about 350 acres on Little Allegany Mountain northwest of Corriganville, two miles from the Pennsylvania line.
Firefighters had contained the eastern edge of the blaze in the morning and, by late afternoon, had brought the western flank under control, a dispatcher said.
Persistent dry weather and warmer-than-usual temperatures have triggered nearly 80 wildfires in the past two weeks. Officials at the Maryland Department of Natural Resources said 21 fires were reported Wednesday alone.
The ban issued by Glendening prohibits all open burning in forested areas, within 200 feet of any woodland or anywhere flammable materials could ignite and carry flames into a nearby forest. Recreational campfires are permitted on private land but are banned in state forests and parks.
Water conservation is being urged in 10 counties: Garrett, Allegany, Washington, Frederick, Carroll, Cecil, Harford, Howard, Montgomery and Baltimore. People who get their water from Baltimore City or the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission are exempt from the conservation request.
Sun staff writer Joel McCord contributed to this article.