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Burning ban lifted in Md., W.Va.

September 08, 1999|By KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI and DAVE MCMILLIONs

Heavy rains throughout the Tri-State area over the Labor Day weekend prompted officials to lift bans on open burning in Maryland and West Virginia Wednesday.

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An open burning ban in Franklin County, Pa., imposed by the Board of County Commissioners on July 30 expired on Aug. 29.

The bans made open burning outdoors illegal.

"The amount of rainfall justified lifting it," said Ric Lillard, of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Green Ridge Fire Center.

From 1.75 inches to 2.08 inches of rain fell in Washington County over the weekend, he said.

The rain from the remnants of what had been Hurricane Dennis fell at a steady rate, saturating vegetation and making open burning less risky, said Lillard.

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"It reduced the drought index and made it safe to lift the ban," he said.

Lillard said a supervisor asked him for his opinion on Western Maryland's drought situation, and that was passed along to Gov. Parris Glendening for consideration, he said.

Precipitation in Washington County is 13 inches below normal for the year with about 28.3 inches of precipitation recorded, he said.

"The county is still in a drought," he said.

The opening burning ban in Maryland was the last of the drought restrictions imposed by Glendening on Aug. 4 to be lifted, said Michelle Byrnie of the governor's press office.

Byrnie said it was the result of an overall reduction of the state's rainfall deficit and an increase in reservoir levels.

On Sept. 1, Glendening lifted mandatory statewide water restrictions. At that time, open air burning restrictions were lifted for all but Washington, Frederick, Allegany and Garrett counties, she said.

Enough rain fell over the Labor Day weekend to lift the ban in the remaining four counties, she said.

In West Virginia, Dennis ruined holiday plans but gave the state a good soaking. Between 2 to 6 inches of rain fell statewide, according to a press release from Gov. Cecil H. Underwood's office.

About 2 inches of rain fell in Martinsburg, according to the National Weather Service.

Underwood removed the burning ban he imposed last month in eight eastern counties.

The ban went into effect Aug. 19 in Berkeley, Grant, Hampshire, Hardy, Jefferson, Mineral, Morgan and Pendleton counties.

"The fire danger isn't totally gone, but it has been greatly reduced by the 2 to 6 inches of rain that fell in the eastern counties," State Forester Randy Dye said. "We've recommended that the ban be lifted, but the drought is not over, and we strongly urge citizens to use great care when burning."

Dye said Underwood could reactivate the ban if little rain falls over the next few months.

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