Wolf Administration Urges Caution to Prevent Wildfires

Harrisburg, PA – Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn yesterday called upon Pennsylvania residents to exercise wildfire prevention vigilance throughout a three-month period when major fires are most likely across the state’s forests and brush lands.

“Yes, we have had seemingly non-stop rains recently across much of the state, but 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.

“A mere spark by a careless person can touch off a devastating forest blaze during dry periods when conditions enable wildfires to spread quickly. Most of the reported fires year after year are linked to people; people cause 98 percent of 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 often scorch 7,000 or more 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 this year has proclaimed March 4-10 as Wildfire Prevention Week (PDF).

In 2017, Pennsylvania experienced a relatively mild fire season, with 531 reported wildfires affecting 1,644 acres. In 2016, however, 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.

“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,” Dunn said. “Common sense limits the threat of 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 www.dcnr.pa.gov (select “Communities” then “Wildfire”).

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