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Maine's drought conditions updated on Smokey Bear's 78th birthday

The wildfire prevention mascot has a new statue in Kittery. His message of preventing wild fires is important now for all of Maine.

MAINE, Maine — The drought continues in Maine to the dismay of farmers, gardeners, and those who source their water from wells.

The state's drought map was updated Thursday, indicating that the coast from Kittery through Waldo County is in severe drought.

The majority of the state is either experiencing moderate drought or is abnormally dry, with exception to Aroostook County and northern areas of Somerset, Piscataquis, Penobscot, and Washington counties.

The new update comes on the birthday of historic wildfire prevention mascot Smokey Bear. Thursday was Smokey's 78th birthday, and a new statue at the Maine Visitor Information Center in Kittery was dedicated in his honor.

The fun continued in Portland, as Smokey threw out the first pitch before the Portland Sea Dogs game Thursday afternoon.

Credit: NCM

Patty Cormier, director of the Maine Forest Service, said the state has already surpassed the average number of wildfires in 2022.

“We have about 535 fires so far this year, and that’s more than the average of 450 fires. Each year we seem to be trending up with that, so that’s why this prevention message is huge," she said.

While many people think mid-summer is the peak of wildfire season, Cormier said the wildfire season is split into three timeframes, one of which is the fall when more vegetation and trees falling from leaves are on the ground. Cormier offered advice for families before they head to the campground or have backyard fires during the next few weeks.

“For children, it’s about, 'Don’t play with fire, get with adults if there’s fire,'" Cormier said. "For adults, it’s about campfires and being mindful putting them out, and that’s where a lot of fires are, campfires escape. [Also] check with your local fire department, get a burn permit."

The state needs rain, but the current forecast predicts that precipitation won't fall until next week. But too much rain at once could lead to flash-flooding.

In this video demonstration, you can see that the water takes significantly longer to absorb in the dry conditions at a generic park in Portland, whereas the water is quickly absorbed on Hadlock Field, for reasons that include a well-hydrated lawn as well as a soil mixture base that is conducive to water absorption.  

Because much of the state is in drought, the ground and soil are hard and dry, which makes it hard for water to be absorbed beneath the grass. If Maine gets 3 inches or more during a rain storm, those floods could be possible.

The best-case scenario for our grass and farms is to get a few inches of rain over one day, have the ground dry out, and get a similar rainfall amount the next day.

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