YORK COUNTY — Rainy weather last night and today has resulted in the Maine Forest Service downgrading the area’s fire danger status to moderate after several days on high alert.

But, fire officials warn, people still need to be cautious.

Dry weather conditions and high winds provided fuel to several brush fires that swept through the state last week and weekend, including a fire that burned a 60-acre area in Old Orchard Beach on Friday, threatening nearby apartment complexes and condominiums.

The Maine Forest Service announced last week that the wildfire season had come two weeks earlier than normal due to a mild winter and lack of snowpack.

“It’s earlier than it’s ever been,” said Saco Fire Chief John Duross.

While it’s normal to see reports of grass burning this time of year, there isn’t the amount of moisture in the woods that there usually is, Duross said.

“We’re a little bit concerned what it’s going to mean for the summer,” he said .

Duross said Saco saw one brush fire over the weekend that spread on a half-acre off Lincoln Street.

Old Orchard Beach saw two major brush fires in the same amount of days. On Friday, a seven-alarm fire took several fire departments and a Maine Forest Service helicopter about two hours to extinguish.

Meterologist Nikki Becker with the National Weather Service in Gray said isolated showers were predicted this afternoon in York County, with a chance of thunderstorms in some areas, and humidity was expected to increase.

But Duross is still cautious. He said the small amount of rain that the area saw overnight could get dried out if the sun comes out and there is no more rain today.

While the area was under high alert, the Saco Fire Department did not issue burn permits. As of early this morning, it was not allowing any outside burning until the weather broke.

— Staff Writer Liz Gotthelf can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 325 or [email protected]

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