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Mini-drought should prompt restraint on open burning now

October 06, 2005

At the risk of stating the obvious, this region needs some rain. It also needs citizens to realize that now is not the time to burn brush or household trash. As dry as it is now, a small brush fire might easily turn into something much worse.

How dry is it? Experts from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Climate Prediction Center (NOAA) this week told The Associated Press that it's the worst drought since 2002.

It has developed quickly, experts said, noting that until August, rainfall was normal, or in some areas, slightly above that.

But over the last five weeks, most of Maryland has recorded just a trace of rain. NOAA meteorologist Douglas LeComte said that at this point, Maryland needs a rain of the type that typically accompanies a tropical storm.

That may come, but until it does, it makes sense to avoid making the situation worse.

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Burning brush and household trash are dangerous practices that not only could spark a fire, but also diminish the air quality. Someday enlightened governments will ban such practices, but at this point, Maryland hasn't even issued a temporary ban on open burning. Until then, it's up to citizens to use common sense and refrain from such burning at least until there have been a few good soaking rains.

It's also time to conserve water by refraining from watering lawns and washing cars. Lawns that aren't lush green and cars that aren't sparkling clean aren't hardships, but inconveniences that citizens should endure willingly.

Why? To make sure there is enough water on hand for drinking and - though we hope it isn't necessary - for firefighting.

Thoughtful citizens of Washington County might also want to ask their elected leaders what progress has been made in mapping local groundwater resources.

This drought is something we hope will be over within weeks, but as a previous county board feared, if it goes on for many months, homeowners who depend on wells might find them going dry.

At that point, they will call on county government for help. Wouldn't it be better to prevent such problems before they happen?

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