With the federal government's U.S. Drought Monitor map showing nearly 90 percent of Indiana abnormally dry, a ban on outdoor burning in Allen County was expected to be approved today.
The County Commissioners' “burn ban” would include all townships and municipalities in an effort to prevent fires exacerbated by current drought conditions.
The commissioners were expected to declare a state of emergency after consulting with officials from Fort Wayne and New Haven; the county's Department of Homeland Security and Environmental Safety Office and members of the Allen County Fire Chiefs Association.
Under state law, the state of emergency can remain in effect for up to seven days but can be extended if necessary.
And that may be necessary if rain does not come soon. A moderate drought covers about 40 percent of the state, mainly northern Indiana and the state's southwestern corner – a portion of which is experiencing a severe drought.
Associate state climatologist Ken Scheeringa said a weather system that pushed across Indiana on Monday delivered little or no rain to parched areas. The next good chance of rain is a week away and temperatures are forecast to rise into the 90s in the coming days, he said.
“We'll be lucky to get rain in the next week. It's very distant,” Scheeringa said Thursday.
He said the lack of rain combined with sunny, warm conditions is forcing more moisture out of the ground each day, drying up fields and turning lawns brown not just in Indiana but surrounding states as well.
“There's always this balancing act between how much rain comes into the soil and how much leaves through evaporation. And right now evaporation is winning,” Scheeringa said.
In addition to Allen, six northern Indiana counties — LaGrange, Marshall, Noble, Steuben, St. Joseph and Wabash — have imposed countywide burn bans due to the risk of wildfires.