Pennsylvania Officials Warn of High Wildfire Risk

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HARRISBURG, PA — As the seasonal wildfire risk increases, state officials are urging Pennsylvanians to be cautious with outdoor fires. Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn and State Fire Commissioner Thomas Cook highlighted the high woodland fire danger currently facing the state.

“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.”

Wildfires are most likely to occur in Pennsylvania 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 human activities. For a wildfire to start, certain conditions must be met: an available fuel source like dried grass or leaves, dry weather with low humidity, an ignition source, and windy conditions that can rapidly spread the fire.

Last year, Pennsylvania experienced more than 1,900 wildfires, burning over 9,186 acres and causing 15 injuries and three deaths. Dunn and Cook emphasized that taking necessary precautions and practicing fire safety can prevent most of these incidents.

“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.”

Common causes of wildfires in Pennsylvania include debris burning, equipment use, power lines, and campfires. Conditions such as light rainfall, lack of green foliage, low humidity, and sunny, windy days increase the risk of forest and brush fires spreading. Human carelessness is almost always the root cause.

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To prevent wildfires, those starting a fire at home or at a campsite should ensure there are no combustible items within 10 feet of the fire. It is also recommended to have a rake, shovel, and water nearby to suppress the embers properly. Checking the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ (DCNR) website for elevated fire risk is advised.

Additional tips for preventing wildfires include:

  • Check the weather forecast for conditions that may support rapid fire spread, especially during a Red Flag Warning, and avoid all fires on those days.
  • Ensure the area is not under a burn-ban, where outdoor fires are prohibited.
  • Clear the area around the fire before starting it.
  • Keep the fire small and never leave it unattended.
  • Consider if it is too warm, dry, or windy for a fire and if the surrounding area is free of leaves and other combustibles.
  • Have a ready source of water, such as a bucket or hose, and a rake to extinguish any escaping embers.
  • Extinguish the fire completely 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.

The implications of preventing wildfires extend beyond immediate safety. Protecting woodlands from fire preserves wildlife habitats and maintains the natural beauty of the state. It also prevents the loss of property and reduces the burden on firefighting resources.

As the threat of wildfires rises with the changing seasons, adhering to these safety guidelines can help protect Pennsylvania’s forests, wildlife, and communities.

READ:  USDA Invests $66 Million to Combat Wildfire Risk and Improve Forest Health

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