The Maine Forest Service on Monday issued a red flag warning, while officials said the lack of early spring rain has created a “very high” risk of wildfires throughout the state.

The warning was posted for Monday from noon until 8 p.m.

Kent Nelson, a fire prevention specialist with the fire service, said there hadn’t been significant rain for several days, making conditions “very dry.”

“This is a vulnerable time of year, the grass and the flowers have not greened up yet — when they green up they have more moisture and, obviously are more resistant to wildfire,” he said.

The “very high” fire danger rating is the second most serious rating in the national five-degree wildfire danger rating system, exceeded only by an “extreme danger,” and means that fires can start easily from various causes and spread rapidly.

Nelson said the forest service would expect that the dry conditions will mean local fire chiefs and fire wardens hold off before issuing burn permits for the brush piles that are the inevitable product of spring clean-up.

There have been 400 to 450 wildfires in Maine during each of the past few years, Nelson said, with two-thirds of them in the spring.

“The most common cause is human, someone who starts off with good intentions,” he said. “They get a permit and start burning and either it gets out of control or it’s not fully extinguished.”

Other accidental causes seen frequently at this time of year are fires started by a spark when the blade of cutting equipment hits a rock and causes a spark, or when a motor vehicle with a hot catalytic converter is driven onto an area of dry vegetation.

The National Weather Service extended forecast for central Maine calls for a slight chance of thunderstorms or showers Monday night and Tuesday, followed by three days with no chance of rain. The weather service is not predicting any significant rainfall in the region until Saturday.


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