With the approach of spring, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn Friday noted drying spring winds and warming temperatures quickly can combine to increase fire dangers across Pennsylvania’s forests and brushlands.
“Despite recent wet weather and snow predicted this weekend in much of the state, recent, highly visible fires around the Harrisburg area showed us it just takes a few days of sun and wind to allow brush and forest fire danger to develop,” Dunn said. “Most of the reported fires last year are linked to people; people cause 98 percent of wildfires. A mere spark by a careless person can touch off a devastating forest blaze during dry periods when conditions enable wildfires to spread quickly.
“Common sense can limit the threat of wildfires,” said Dunn. “When state residents and forest visitors are careless with burning trash, campfires and smoking, volunteer firefighters often pay the price, answering call after call in spring woodlands that are ripe for damaging, life-threatening wildfires.”
DCNR statistics show nearly 85 percent of Pennsylvania’s wildfires occur in March, April and May, before the greening of state woodlands and brushy areas. Named for rapid spread through dormant, dry vegetation, under windy conditions, wildfires annually scorch nearly 7,000 acres of state and private woodlands.
In 2015, Bureau of Forestry personnel and volunteer firefighters battled a total of 817 reported field, brush and forest fires that scorched 4,165 acres across the state.
Anglers, campers and other state forest visitors are reminded open fires are prohibited on state forestland from March 1 to May 25, and when the fire danger is listed as high, very high, or extreme, unless authorized by district foresters.
Communities in heavily wooded areas are urged to follow wildfire prevention and suppression methods of the Pennsylvania Firewise Community Program to safeguard life and property.
DCNR’s Bureau of Forestry is responsible for prevention and suppression of wildfires on the 17 million acres of state and private woodlands and brushlands. The bureau maintains a fire-detection system, and works with fire wardens and volunteer fire departments to ensure they are trained in the latest advances in fire prevention and suppression.For more information, visit DCNR’s Wildland Fire webpage or call 717-787-2925.