After two brush fires scorched acres of land in Oak Bluffs and West Tisbury this week, state and local fire officials are on particularly high alert, with drought conditions and high winds dragging on into the fall and threatening more wildland fires on the Island.

On Monday, a stubborn brushfire in the dense wooded area surrounding the Sacred Heart Cemetery in Oak Bluffs kept firefighters from four departments occupied throughout the day, burning an acre and a quarter of woodland. 

After the initial flames were extinguished Monday morning, smoldering fire embers remained beneath the soil, drawing firefighters back to the scene to douse hot spots three more times before the fire was officially declared out Tuesday morning.

Interim Oak Bluffs fire chief Martin Greene, a veteran firefighter, said it was the largest brush fire he has seen since arriving on the Island six months ago.

Tisbury fire chief Gregory Leland, whose team was present at the scene, said dry conditions and a lack of rain fueled the fire. 

“You get really, really dry conditions like we have, a fire starts and that fire actually grows under the ground. It’s burning that mulch in the root systems of trees and underbrush, and it can spread farther than what you can see on the surface,” he said. “They can be particularly stubborn, and they take a lot more water to put out.”

The cause of the fire remains unknown, Chief Greene said. Fire officials said they discovered a small campsite near the cemetery.

Farther up-Island, another, smaller brushfire off Merry Farm Road in West Tisbury burned about half an acre of land on Sunday afternoon, fire chief Manuel Estrella 3rd confirmed. 

No individuals or property were damaged in the fires, although both occurred in relatively high density locations on Island.

“We were pretty lucky,” Chief Estrella said. 

Statewide and across the Northeast, too, fire risk has been unusually high this week. Dave Celino, chief fire warden for the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), issued a statement early in the week to regional fire departments warning of elevated fire risk across the state, while the National Weather Services released a red-flag fire advisory that remained in place through Tuesday. Fire risk levels in Massachusetts remained in the high or extreme risk class throughout the early week, Chief Celino confirmed.

The smoldering brushfires come as the most recent chapter in the months-long drought plaguing the commonwealth since early in the summer.

After a record dry summer, state-declared drought conditions in effect since the start of August have persisted, with all seven regions of Massachusetts under level two ­— significant drought conditions —­ as of Sept. 4.

Scorching summer temperatures and little rainfall were key players in the weather story on the Island this season. In June, the Island region received 1.59 inches of rain, 1.45 inches fewer than in past years, according to average precipitation statistics released by the DCR. In July, dry conditions persisted, with the Islands receiving just half an inch of rain. In August, a total of 0.85 inches of precipitation fell, 2.89 inches below past years’ averages. 

And as fall arrives and temperatures begin to drop, the drought has seen little relief. September marks the fourth month of well-below average precipitation, with less than an inch of rain recorded to date, according to data from the Northeast Regional Climate Center.

Meanwhile, under the current conditions, wildfire rates in the state have already soared, Chief Celino told the Gazette by phone Tuesday.

In a typical calendar year, Massachusetts averages between 1,100 and 1,800 wildfires statewide, he said. As of early this week, just days into the official fall season, the DCR had reported 1,016 wildfires in the commonwealth to date, with each fire burning about a quarter of an acre or more. 

By comparison, with above-average rainfall last year, the DCR recorded only 281 fires in the state for the entire year, the chief said.

On the Island, extended drought conditions have steadily dried already parched fields, grasses and state forest land, making the Vineyard landscape — replete with pitch pines and scrub oak — a dangerous breeding ground for wildland fires, officials said. According to a drought index called KBDI that reflects soil moisture depletion on a scale of 0-800 (with 800 being absolutely dry conditions), the Vineyard is currently hovering in the high 500 range.

“There’s no question when you see [the landscape] as to how you can end up with a 5,000-acre fire on that Island,” said Chief Celino.

Unusually low rates of humidity and dry northerly winds Tuesday, with gusts around 30 knots, brought new challenges for Vineyard fire officials this week, threatening to ignite the Island’s already-flammable ground mulch and brush fuels. “Even a spark from a muffler or a cigarette butt could easily ignite dead or cured-out grass or leaf litter and that’s the big concern,” said Chief Celino.

Under such dry conditions, wildfires — like those seen on the Island this week — become particularly labor intensive and dangerous to extinguish, Island fire officials said.

“Every fire we’re seeing now across the state — if it’s even a half an acre and it’s had any kind of time to burn and get seeded into the ground — are now considered multi-day incidents,” Chief Celino said. 

As wildfires continue to rage on the West Coast, fire departments across the Island have gone on high alert. 

“We’re keeping a watchful eye,” said Edgartown fire chief Alex Schaeffer. “In my 25 years here at the department I can’t say that I’ve ever seen it this dry.” Mr. Schaeffer said Edgartown fire put a brushbreaker truck — specially fitted for going into dense woods to extinguish brushfires — into service recently and has been training with it since.

The Manuel F. Correllus State Forest — a 5,000 acre woodland in the center of the Island — has had no superintendent since spring, when superintendent Chris Bruno left the Island to take another job. Firefighter Karen Lothrop from the DCR regional office in Sandwich, who is stationed on the Vineyard, has been installed in the Island’s state-owned fire tower in West Tisbury since the risk warning first went into effect, Chief Celino said. 

As DCR staff, Ms. Lothrop is available to provide mutual aid to any Vineyard fire departments who require it. A larger network of DCR firefighters are also available to mobilize in the event of a fully-involved fire on the Island, the chief said. 

Longer term, the DCR has been engaged in wildfire mitigation efforts in the state forest for decades, using methods like prescribed fires to minimize the threat of dangerous, unplanned wildfires, Chief Celino said.

The DCR also works with local fire departments to provide specialized wildfire training. According to Chief Leland, six members of the Tisbury force have been trained in the DCR program.

While there are currently no bans for bonfires in place on the Vineyard, state and Island fire officials alike urged residents to exercise extreme caution when making fires and to remain cognizant of the risks associated with such activities. 

“It’s a partnership,” said Chief Schaeffer. “We respond and extinguish fires to the best of our ability, and the other side of that partnership is people being responsible.”

Chief Celino agreed. “There’s a lot of first responder agencies that come together to do this, but we need the public also as a strong partner . . . we really plead with the public to cooperate with us.”

With the forecast through Sunday showing no sign of rain, Chief Celino reminded everyone to stay safe, noting that the risk of fire will remain high into the foreseeable future. 

“Until we get some measurable precipitation over a duration of four or five days, we’ll keep seeing this elevated fire risk,” he said.