PA Officials Warn of Increased Risk of Spring Fires

By Emily Scott, Public News Service
For The Posts

HARRISBURG PA – April is among the months with the highest risks of wildfires in Pennsylvania, and state wildfire records indicate 99 percent of them are caused by people. With the weather warming and and more residents getting urges to go camping or clean their yards, state officials are asking them to be mindful of woodland fire danger.

Mike Kern, chief forest fire warden for the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, said spring and autumn months often produce drier conditions with low relative humidity. “That allows dormant vegetation that we call the fuels to dry out faster,” Kern explained. “They’re more exposed to sunlight and wind. With a little bit of breeze, that can allow the fuels to burn more easily.”

Thousands of acres of state woodlands are burned by wildfires each year. Debris burning, equipment use, power lines, and campfires are the most common causes of wildfires in Pennsylvania. Kern urges residents planning to start a fire to first check the department’s website on the day they intend to burn. Learn if there is an elevated fire risk, or if burning restrictions exist in your area.

Also, check with your municipality for its rules. Several western Montgomery County townships and boroughs have year-round no-burning laws in effect.

Kern cited precautions residents can take to ensure their fire is contained:

  • It’s important to clear the area to ensure there are no combustible items within 10 feet of the fire;
  • “Before you get started, have some water on hand, have a shovel, so that if it does get away you can put it out, or when you’re done with your fire you can put it out easily,” Kern advised;
  • And before leaving any fire, ensure all the ashes are completely out and cool to the touch. If a fire gets out of control, the department recommends people immediately call 9-1-1.

Photo by Ahmed Zayan via Unsplash, used under license