Fire Prevention Week begins Oct. 7, coinciding with the beginning of the fall wildfire season in Maryland.

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources urges residents throughout the state to take precautions as the changing foliage increases the risks of wildland fires spreading through brush and forests.

Wildfires occur every month in Maryland, but peak in the spring and fall. During these two seasons the leaves fall off deciduous trees, allowing sunlight and wind to reach the forest floor drying out brush, leaves and vegetation and other debris that can catch aflame. The relative humidity of the air is also drier and, combined with a breeze, creates favorable conditions for wildfires to spread rapidly.

“Despite the record amount of rainfall we received this year, fall’s combination of drying forest fuels and winds add up to increased fire danger,” Maryland Forest Service State Fire Supervisor Monte Mitchell said. “Extra caution needs to be taken with outdoor burning and use of machinery that is gas-powered or could spark wildfires. It doesn’t take much for dry leaves to ignite and become a serious problem.”

Each year, the Maryland Forest Service responds to an average of 210 wildfires that burn about 2,325 acres. The only natural cause of wildfires is lightning, which accounts for only 4 percent of the wildfire ignitions in the state. The remaining 96 percent are caused by humans.

Homeowners can learn more about how to prevent wildfires at the department’s Firewise Maryland page.

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