Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn 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.
“Because of seemingly endless rainy periods, Pennsylvania’s 2018 wildfire season was relatively short-lived in the spring, but conditions can change almost overnight,” cautioned Dunn. “Lack of foliage, strong sun and drying winds all cause fire danger in our woodlands to spike rapidly.”
Although the weather this week is winter-like, March marks the start of a “sometimes very dangerous three months,” Dunn said. “That’s why Governor Tom Wolf this year has proclaimed March 3-9 as Wildfire Prevention Week.”
Human carelessness continued to lead the list of causes as wildfires across the state in 2018. A total of 690 wildfires, ranging from less than one acre in size to almost 690 acres, were reported last year. They consumed 1,843 acres, well below the 10-year average of 4,000 acres.
“When 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,” said Dunn.
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.
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”).