Officials encourage Pennsylvanians to be mindful of increased woodland fire risks

Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn and State Fire Commissioner Thomas Cook Thursday urged Pennsylvanians be mindful of high woodland fire danger as seasonal wildfire risk increases.

“We know that a simple act of carelessness when lighting a camp or bonfire could prove disastrous among tinder-dry conditions in some of our forests,” Dunn said. “We encourage Pennsylvanians to be cautious when lighting fires during these conditions to protect lives, wildlife habitats and our natural resources.”

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The greatest danger of wildfires in Pennsylvania occurs during the spring months of March, April, and May, and the autumn months of October and November. In Pennsylvania, 99 percent of all wildfires are caused by people. Certain conditions are necessary for a wildfire to occur:

An available fuel source, such as dried grass or leaves. Dry conditions, including low relative humidity An ignition source — some way for the fire to start. Windy weather can cause wildfires to spread out of control more rapidly.

Thousands of acres of state and private woodlands are burned by wildfires each year. Last year, Pennsylvania saw more than 1,900 wildfires that burned 9,186 acres and caused 15 injuries and three deaths.

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“Taking the necessary precautions and practicing fire safety will prevent most brush and wildfires,” Cook said. “We want to remind people to be careful with campfires, fireworks, backyard burning and all forms of outdoor open flame to protect our lands and keep our hardworking firefighters safe.”

Debris burning, equipment use, power lines, and campfires, are some of the most common causes of wildfires in Pennsylvania. 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.

Those starting a fire at home or at a campsite are encouraged to make sure there are no combustible items within 10 feet of the fire. Additionally, it is recommended to have a rake or shovel along with water to properly suppress the embers of a fire. Finally, officials recommend checking DCNR’s website to see if there is an elevated fire risk.

Other advice for preventing wildfires includes:

Check the weather forecast for conditions that may support rapid fire spread outdoors, especially during a Red Flag Warning. Avoid all fires on these days; Make sure the area is not part of a burn-ban, where outdoor fires are prohibited; Clear the area around the fire 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.

Residents are also advised to create “safe zones” around homes and cabins by removing leaves and other debris from the ground and rain gutters, stacking firewood away from structures and trimming overhanging branches.

DCNR’s website provides information on wildfire safety. In addition, wildfire prevention is a message brought to people across the country by the well-known figure, Smokey Bear. Detailed information about wildfire prevention as well as materials for kids and educators is on the SmokeyBear.com.

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Berks Weekly
Berks Weekly
Berks Weekly is an independent and locally owned digital newspaper covering the City of Reading and Berks County. Subscribe today: berksweekly.com/subscribe
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