The Massachusetts National Guard has been activated to help fight a wildfire that's been burning for five weeks in Rockport, officials announced Thursday, as more of the state plunged into severe drought.
The Briarwood Fire has been burning above ground and underground across 19 acres, according to Gov. Charlie Baker's office. His order activating the guard allows up to 30 Massachusetts Army National Guard's tactical firefighters to help local first responders.
Local firefighters have set up a containment area to fight the blaze in near Woodland Acres and Briarwood. They noted Wednesday that the National Guard's activity Thursday and Friday is expected to increase the amount of smoke coming from the fire from 7 a.m. into the evening.
"They are specifically trained for this type of work and will be under the oversight of the Rockport Forest Fire Warden and State Forestry experts," according to an update from the town.
More than 800 wildfires have been reported in Massachusetts so far in 2022, burning a total of 1,248 acres, according to state officials.
The ongoing drought has made it easier for wildfires to ignite, officials said. An update on the drought Thursday placed all of northeastern Massachusetts in extreme drought and nearly all of the state in severe drought.
Winds are expected to reach 35 mph Thursday, which could help embers spark into full-fledged fires. Massachusetts officials urged people in the state "to take special care around any outdoor activities that increase the risk of brush and forest fires such as grilling, camping, smoking, and using power equipment that can reach high temperatures, such as lawnmowers and ATVs."