Wildfire fighters grapple with a very busy week

Driven by gusting winds and fueled by tinder-dry fields and forests, wildfires last weekend and early this week kept volunteer and Bureau of Forestry firefighters very busy across much of the state.

Most serious was a blaze that threatened homes, forced evacuations and left 400 to 500 acres scorched in the French Creek State Park area of Berks County. Mop-up operations were continuing there as of early Wednesday.

Dozens of area volunteer firefighters converged on the fire that was fanned through sections of the park and state forestlands and game lands. A specialized bureau firefighting crew joined William Penn Forest District personnel in the wildfire fighting effort, which was hampered by the grounding of assisting aircraft because of high winds.

Meanwhile, across the state, bureau personnel the past week responded to 137 fires that burned 1,201 acres. Three fires, including the Berks County blaze and others in Luzerne and Cameron counties, were over 100 acres, and numerous fires were reported in the 10- to 100-acre class. Also:

  • Aircraft from all tanker bases have been busy working in multiple state forest districts;
  • Two highly specialized firefighting teams have been assigned: one to the Cameron County wildfire and the other to Berks County;
  • Aiding firefighters is the “greening up” in valleys , but emergence of foliage on the ridge tops and northern section of the state has slowed significantly due to frost and cold weather;
  • Fields and woodlands have been very dry, and will remain so without significant precipitation. Wednesday marked the fifth consecutive day (and sixth out of the last seven days) that red flag (high fire danger) warnings covered portions of the state. State Bureau of Forestry statistics show nearly 85 percent of Pennsylvania’s wildfires occur in March, April and May, before the greening of state woodlands and brush lands. Named for rapid spread through dormant dry vegetation, under windy conditions, wildfires annually scorch nearly 10,000 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 Pennsylvania’s 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 here.

from:  Resource: Newsletter of the PA Department of Conservation and Natural Resources


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