Smoldering concern: Wildfires threatening Mass. despite recent rain

SAUGUS, Mass. — Wildfires, edged on by the recent drought have torched 240 acres of land across Massachusetts.

One of the biggest fires has been at Breakheart Reservation in Saugus, where nearly 80 acres have burned, forcing the popular park to remain closed.

“Any of these fires that have any length of time to burn are now going to become a challenging, extended operation for all the fire services that are involved,” said Chief Fire Warden Dave Celino with the Department of Conservation and Recreation.

The extreme drought conditions have become a huge concern for wildfires spreading across the state.

More than 100 fires have been reported in Massachusetts in August with 38 fires burning just within the last week.

“You bring these fires out to a containment point like a road or a trail, traditional tactics don’t work, we’re finding out we can’t just go out and directly put the flames out and go home two hours later,” said Chief Fire Warden Celino.

Celino says the goal right now is to just contain these fires since it’s almost impossible to completely put them out without significant rain.

The problem is these fires are burning underground.

“So it smolders underground, it’s burning those fine root systems very, very slowly and produces a lot of heat,” said Celino. “If you want to get 100 percent suppression on it, you have to dig up almost every square foot down to that heat source.”

And that takes a lot of manpower.

State fire officials say these fires have put a strain on resources as well as a safety risk to firefighters, so they’re thankful for the help from multiple agencies.

“We’ve provided the response teams with daily targeted weather briefings and helped facilitate the largest number of forestry task force mobilization we have ever seen in such a short period of time,” said Dawn Brantley, acting director at MEMA.

As fire crews continue to contain these fires, the state is banning all open flames in charcoal grills at state parks, and they warn everyone to be careful with any fires outside during this drought.

“We’re in this for the long haul until we get what we call a season-ending event, which would be that tropical storm that comes up and parks itself off the coast for us,” said Celino. “We need 3-4 days of steady rainfall that will help us out.”

This is a developing story. Check back for updates as more information becomes available.

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