The state of Maryland yesterday prohibited open burning in all wooded areas and anywhere else where flames could spread to brush or forests, which have become extremely flammable because of little rainfall during March.
In Virginia, officials were considering asking Gov. Gerald L. Baliles to close state forests if the number of fires increases. That announcement came as a 1,500-acre fire -- the biggest of the year in the state -- remained out of control and spread from Botetourt to Alleghany County north of Roanoke.
The new Maryland order by Don MacLauchlan, director of the state Forest, Park and Wildlife Service, extends to private property the same burning ban ordered Wednesday for Maryland's 35 state-owned parks, forests and camping areas.
Anyone caught violating the order could be cited and prosecuted, facing a possible $500 fine and three-month jail term for a first offense or $1,000 and a one-year jail term for a repeat offense.
There were 2,200 woods or brush fires in Maryland in March, most of them in the last 10 days of the month, said Barbara Rice, spokeswoman for the agency. In Virginia, there have been 628 fires that burned 6,176 acres over the last two weeks, according to officials there.