Gypsy moth caterpillar invasion leads to increased fire risk across Mass.

UXBRIDGE, Mass. — Thousands of acres have been stripped bare because of this year’s gypsy moth caterpillar invasion and, without a leafy canopy to keep the forest floor and its flammable debris from drying out, fire is now a major concern.

“It's been pretty bad here, looks sort of like winter,” arborist Scott McPhee said. “The last time we had full-scale deforestation like this was back in the late 70s and early 80s.”

McPhee said the gypsy moth problem combined with the drought is a double-whammy many trees may not survive.

“Usually something like this lowers the vigor and the health of the tree. And there's other pathogens and insects that take advantage of that and weaken the tree further,” he said.

All of that also combines for a very high fire risk this season.

“We may have a bigger brush fire problem during the summer than we normally have. And if we don't get a lot of rain the fall will be extremely dry,” Uxbridge Fire Chief Bill Kessler said.

Fire officials across the state are working to make sure campers and smokers alike get the message and are extra cautious during the potentially dangerous fire season.