State Urges Caution in the Outdoors to Prevent Wildfires

HARRISBURG, Pa.  –  With the start of spring and Wildfire Prevention Week, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn warns the combination of bright sun, strong winds, and warming temperatures quickly can increase wildfire dangers across Pennsylvania’s forests and brush lands.

“Despite recent cold temperatures and snowcover across much of the state, past springs have shown it just takes a few days of sun and wind to allow brush and forest fire danger to develop quickly,” 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.”

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.

March marks the start of a “sometimes very dangerous three months,” Dunn said. “That is why Governor Tom Wolf has proclaimed March 19-25 as Wildfire Prevention Week.

“The value of vigilance is driven home when we look back at the tragedy of Tennessee’s wildfires late last year that killed 14 and Pennsylvania’s wildfire last April that burned for almost two weeks across more than 8,000 acres on the Pike-Monroe county line,” Dunn said.

In 2016, Bureau of Forestry personnel and volunteer firefighters battled more than 850 reported field, brush and forest fires that scorched more than 12,000 acres across the state.

“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.”

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 brush lands.

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 on Wildfire Prevention Week activities, contact local district foresters; call the Bureau of Forestry at 717-787-2925; or visit (select “Forestry” then “Wildland Fire”).

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