RI lifts ban on outdoor fires in campgrounds and parks

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PROVIDENCE — The state Department of Environmental Management on Tuesday lifted a ban on outdoor fires in campgrounds, parks and state management areas.

The state imposed the ban on August 19 due to the risk of wildfires. But rain from recent storms has reduced both the number and risk of wildfires in Rhode Island since then, the agency said.

Fire danger is now considered low in both District 1 (Providence, Bristol, and Newport counties) and District 2 (Kent and Washington counties), and the state does not plan to impose a another ban before Labor Day, September 5. But the state could reinstate the outdoor fire ban if conditions worsen, the agency said.

“While weather conditions are still dynamic, Rhode Island is currently in low fire danger and DEM does not expect fire potential to increase next week based on current forecasts,” the ranger said. Principal Ben Arnold. “We remind Rhode Islanders, however, that the state is still experiencing extreme drought and if we see the fire danger increasing, we will need to reinstate the ban to protect life, property and natural resources.”

The US Drought Monitor released a map with its weekly update on August 25, showing that 99% of Rhode Island still faces “extreme” drought conditions.

By early August, one-third of the state was facing extreme drought conditions, but now all parts of Rhode Island are experiencing extreme drought except Block Island and Watch Hill, which are facing severe drought conditions.

This is only the second time in more than two decades that the state has experienced extreme drought, with the last extreme drought occurring in September 2020.

The US Drought Monitor uses five classifications: abnormally dry, moderate, severe, extreme, and exceptional, and Rhode Island has never experienced exceptional drought conditions. Under extreme drought conditions, crop losses are widespread, wildlife disease outbreaks are seen and wells dry up, the US Drought Monitor said.

So far this year, Rhode Island has had 76 reported wildfires, with 44.3 acres of land burned, according to the Department of Environmental Management.

Any outdoor fire is a potential source of a wildfire, the agency said, so people should be careful not to inadvertently start a wildfire while cooking outside, lighting a campfire or using fireworks. The following safety tips should be followed to minimize risk:

  • Coals used for cooking should be cold before discarding.
  • Smokers should use ashtrays.
  • People should check with their local fire department for a burn permit. Fire departments have the authority to deny permits when conditions are too dangerous.

The agency also reminded Rhode Islanders of Smokey Bear’s basic fire prevention rules:

  • Only you can prevent forest fires.
  • Always be careful with fire.
  • Never play with matches or lighters.
  • Always watch your campfire.
  • (If permitted) make sure your campfire is completely extinguished before leaving.

Edward Fitzpatrick can be contacted at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @FitzProv.

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