As wildfires rage across the West Coast, members of the Martha’s Vineyard Commission expressed grave concern about the status of the Manuel F. Correllus State Forest at their meeting Thursday, especially given the significant drought conditions throughout the state.

The state forest has been without a full-time superintendent since former manager Chris Bruno’s sudden departure in March. The superintendent’s responsibilities include the hiring and staffing of fire watch towers, as well as general forest and trail maintenance.

A state forest firefighter based in Sandwich is currently commuting back and forth from the mainland, doing daily work at the state forest, but Mr. Bruno’s superintendent position remains vacant.

At the commission meeting Thursday, executive director Adam Turner said the commission had received a grant to work with town fire departments on state forest fire management. The working group meets monthly, Mr. Turner said, and is headed by Edgartown fire chief Alex Schaeffer.

But commissioners expressed concern that the significant drought conditions that have occurred throughout the state this entire summer made the prolonged superintendent vacancy particularly dire.

“I don’t think that this is something that we can just let slide by the state,” commissioner Christine Todd said. “If [the state forest] goes up, it goes up, and it affects the entire Island. I just don’t think we can sit back and wait for the state to be responsive.”

Homelessness, houses on the edges of the forest, and the prevalence of informal campsites on the grounds were also concerns considering the high risk of fire, according to commissioners.

“We need to get someone in there to do work within the forest to diminish this very serious problem,” Ms. Todd said.

The state forest — a 5,000 tract of woodland at the center of the Island — has only had a handful of superintendents since it was established at the turn of the 20th century. But there has been significant turnover since longtime superintendent John Varkonda died in late 2013. Chris Bruno was the third person to hold the position in the last four years.

“Chris Bruno leaving was really a jolt,” commissioner Christina Brown said. “For a while, he was the only employee at the state forest.”

Commission chairman Doug Sederholm said the superintendent job has been hard to fill with the Island’s location and housing constraints.

At the meeting, the commission decided to start a working group devoted to the state forest, naming Christine Todd, Christina Brown and Clarence (Trip) Barnes, 3rd as its initial members, and requested that Mr. Turner send a letter to the state Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR).

“The state has the responsibility to name a superintendent,” Mr. Turner said. “They are going to name somebody. We’ll just have to see.”

In an email statement, a spokesman for DCR said that they are continuing to manage and care for the state forest, as well as reviewing their options for its management moving forward.

"At this time, DCR is reviewing forest management options at Manuel F. Correllus State Forest; in the interim, the agency is working with existing DCR South Region staff, including a DCR Wildland Firefighter, to maintain the forest, authorized trails, and the fire tower," the statement said.

Meanwhile, as fires forced nearly 500,000 people near Portland, Ore. to evacuate their homes, commissioners continued to express their own concerns about the state forest.

“It has 4,000 acres of dead wood in it,” Mr. Sederholm said. “And that is a legitimate problem.”

In other business, commissioners approved the written decision for the Meeting House Place subdivision at their meeting Thursday. The commission denied the proposed 29-lot subdivision earlier this summer.

The completion of the written decision formally triggers a 20-day appeal period which begins when applicants receive the written decision by mail. The applicants are Utah businessmen who are represented by Edgartown attorney Sean Murphy.

All commissioners voted in favor of the written decision except James Joyce. Mr. Barnes abstained. Mr. Joyce and Mr. Barnes were two of four commissioners who voted against denying the project.

After the commission had approved the decision, Mr. Turner called it the most difficult project of his tenure to date as executive director.

The commission also unanimously approved the written decision for the Patient Centric recreational marijuana facility located off of State Road in West Tisbury. The applicant is Geoff Rose, who has already received approval from the commission to use the site for medical marijuana. Mr. Rose is still waiting to clear state permits for his recreational business.