WAYNE COUNTY – Multiple brush fires have occurred here and emergency officials warn the public to refrain from burning or to use common sense when doing so, as March is the start of brush fire season.
The fire danger classification for the area has been fluctuating this week between moderate and high, and local conditions confirm the brush fire danger is “very real,” Honesdale Deputy Fire Chief Brian Dulay said Friday.
The ground is still very wet, but the wind dries out brush and grass on the surface, making it crisp and very flammable, Dulay said.
“With no snow cover and a lengthy time until vegetation greens, the spring brush fire season looks to be significant,” he said.
There has been at least two recent brush fires, along Sugar Street in Bethany and off Bear Swamp Road in Texas Township. Each fire burned about an acre-plus, though not structures were damaged.
The greatest danger for the sparking of brush fires is in the late-winter/spring months of March, April and May, and in the autumn months of October and November.
That is due in large part to windy weather and dry conditions in grasslands and fields, said Steve Price, coordinator of the Wayne County Emergency Management Agency.
Dulay noted brush fires can quickly spread in various directions with even modest wind, so it is important for residents and property owners to take steps to prevent potential blazes.
Preventable steps include:
• Creating a buffer zone around any controlled fire
• Never leaving a fire unattended
• Before striking a match, consider if it is too warm, dry or windy for a fire and if the surrounding area is free of leaves and other combustibles
• Ensure there is a nearby water source
“Most brush fires are preventable, as they are caused by careless or unattended burning,” Dulay said. He noted there are alternatives to burning trash, such as composting natural material and having regular trash pickup.
The state Department of Environmental Protection also strongly recommends residents use alternative means of getting rid of waste, such as recycling or taking the materials to a garbage dump or municipal incinerator, where available.
Meanwhile, Dulay noted neighboring Susquehanna County this week enacted a burn ban.
While Wayne County has not, conditions here “are and will continue to be very similar” to those in Susquehanna, Dulay said.
Wayne County does not put burn bans into effect, but rather lets local municipalities determine if they wish to put the bans into effect, Price said.
Burn bans typically last 30 days.
Local municipalities also can prohibit burning by enacting ordinances.
For instance, Honesdale has an ordinance that prohibits the burning of “rubbish, refuse and riffraff.”
Those who violate the law can face potential fines.
The state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources estimates nearly 10,000 acres of state and private woodlands are burned each year during March through May.