Pa. Forester Warns of Spring Wildfire Danger; At Least 110 Fires Reported Last Week

April 15, 2005

Pennsylvania’s opening of the traditional trout season this Saturday, amid a prolonged stretch of sunny, dry and windy days, has prompted Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ Bureau of Forestry officials to urge woodland visitors to guard against wildfire dangers.

“Fire danger ranges from high to very high across much of the state, and with trout anglers and other visitors heading into our woodlands this weekend, it is imperative that caution be the watchword,” State Forester Dr. James Grace said. “One act of carelessness could prove disastrous among tinder-dry conditions in some of our forests, where wildfire dangers climb with each day of sun and wind.”

Dr. Grace cautioned that despite frequent and heavy rain in recent weeks, lack of green foliage in the spring, scant rainfall, low humidity and sunny, windy days all have increased chances of forest and brush fires spreading. Their cause is almost always traced to one source — human carelessness, he said. At least 110 fires were reported last week in brush and woodlands across the state.

Nearly 10,000 acres of state forest are burned by wildfires each year, and nearly 85 percent of all fires in Pennsylvania woodlands occur during the months of March, April and May. Almost all of these fires threaten people and their homes, as well as trees and wildlife.

State forestry officials urge landowners to check with local municipalities to see if outdoor burning is allowed, and to use extreme caution when burning trash and debris, one of the most common causes of wildfires. Residents are advised to: create “safe zones” around homes and cabins by removing leaves and other debris from the ground and rain gutters; stack firewood away from structures; and trim overhanging branches.

Campers and other state forest visitors are reminded that open fires are forbidden on state forestland when the fire danger is listed as high, very high or extreme.

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