With the approach of Pennsylvania’s traditional statewide trout season opener on April 16, and weather conditions that keep firefighters busy responding to wildfires across much of the state, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Wednesday urged anglers, property owners and others to take steps to prevent forest and brush fires.
“We ask trout anglers and other forest visitors to be extremely careful this weekend because fire danger is increasing rapidly amid sunny, warm days and little rainfall,” said DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn. “One act of carelessness could prove disastrous among tinder-dry conditions in some of our forests, where wildfire dangers climb with each day of sun and wind.”
Open fires are forbidden on state forestland from March 1 through May 25, and when the fire danger is listed as high, very high or extreme.
“One has to only look back to last month to see how fires spike quickly when the combination of sun, wind and lack of rain create tinder-like conditions,” Dunn said. “We remind folks to be careful with campfires and backyard burning, and to take the proper precautions at all times.”
So far this spring, the largest wildfire scorched more than 70 acres in Tioga County. Others have destroyed one home,damaged two, and destroyed 10 out buildings and other structures.
Advice from DCNR’s Bureau of Forestry includes:
-- Clear the area around a campfire prior to starting it;
-- Keep the fire small and never leave it unattended;
-- Before you strike a campfire match, first consider if it is too warm, dry or windy for a fire and if the surrounding area is free of leaves and other combustibles;
-- Make sure there is a ready source of water (bucket or hose) nearby and a rake to extinguish any embers that might escape; and
-- When you are done with the fire, put it out with water until all ashes are cold to the touch.
Dunn noted that light rainfall in many areas, lack of green foliage in the spring, low humidity and sunny, windy days all combine to increase chances of forest and brush fires spreading. Such fires are almost always traced to human carelessness, she said.
Nearly 10,000 acres of state and private woodlands are burned by wildfires each year, and nearly 85 percent of all fires in Pennsylvania woodlands occur during the months of March, April and May. Almost all of these fires threaten people and their homes, as well as trees and wildlife.
State forestry officials urge landowners to check with local municipalities to see if outdoor burning is allowed, and to avoid entirely or use extreme caution when burning trash and debris – one of the most common causes of wildfires.
Residents are also advised to create “safe zones” around homes and cabins by removing leaves and other debris from the ground and rain gutters, stack firewood away from structures and trim overhanging branches.
The Bureau of Forestry is responsible for the prevention and suppression of wildfires on Pennsylvania’s 17 million acres of private and state-owned woodlands.For more information on wildfire prevention, contact local district foresters; call the Bureau of Forestry at 717-787-2925; or visit DCNR’s Wildland Fire webpage.