Md. Forest Service watching two big marsh fires
The Maryland DNR Forest Service is investigating the causes of two wildfires this week that have burned more than 3,500 acres of marshland in Dorchester County. Both fires have been brought under control, but continue to burn.
"We typically get large marsh fires at this time of year," said state fire supervisor Monte Mitchell. "With the conditions we had on Monday, with gusts from 20 to 40 mph, low relative humidity and dry fuel conditions, it's a recipe for large fires."
The two big fires were among 12 wildfires the Forest Service has tackled already this week on the Eastern Shore, in Dorchester, Caroline, Kent, Talbot and Somerset counties. Most were small and they were extinguished quickly.
No injuries were reported in any of the fires. But one fire Monday near Andrews, in Dorchester County, destroyed 5 acres of woodland, 32 acres of marsh, and two sheds. A hunting lodge was saved by fire fighters from the local volunteer company and the Forest Service.
Both of the large marsh fires began Monday. The largest, dubbed the Irish Creek fire, has charred more than 2,900 acres in the Fishing Bay Wildlife Management Area, about four miles south of Bestpitch.
The second fire, named the Thorofare fire, burned across 590 acres less than a mile south of Bestpitch along the Transquaking River.
"Both are under investigation at this time," Mitchell said. "I don't want to speculate as to what the cause would be." But there was no lightning and there is nothing out there that would ignite a fire of its own accord, he said.
"Fires like that are suspicious in nature," he said.
Because of the fires' inaccessibility, two fire fighters were dispatched by boat with orders to confine and monitor the fires until the blazes burn themselves out, making sure they do not threaten woodlands or houses, Mitchell said.
The risk of wildfires continues this week, Mitchell said. "It looks like the winds are going to die down some after today. That's good. For the rest of the week it looks like we're still going to have dry conditions ... Fires ignite easily and spread easily under these conditions."
(PHOTO: Kayakers on the Transquaking River, Perry Thorsvik, 1997)