To Burn or… …Not To Burn

Wildfires don’t start big.

The state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ Bureau of Forestry reminds residents that the recent warmer temperatures and lack of rainfall has increased the risk for potential wildfires in Pennsylvania’s forests.

Some 98 percent of the wildfires in Pennsylvania are a direct result of people, and those unintended wildfires require the time and effort from local emergency responders who also have to respond to structure fires and traffic accidents.

“The warm, dry weather is great for cleaning up around the yard, gardening and other outdoor activities, but the Bureau of Forestry would ask that all residents use extra care while working or recreating outdoors,” Cecile Stelter, district manager of the Pennsylvania Bureau of Forestry, said. “Burning trash in your burn barrel, an unattended campfire, burning that large brush pile, or a spark from a vehicle or a piece of equipment are all potential starting points for brush or woods fires. Individuals who start a wildfire, regardless of whether it began intentionally or unintentionally, can be charged for the extinguishing costs of that fire.”

Local emergency responders have been to two fires that impacted three acres in the last seven days. Stelter said there have been 38 fires impacting 444 acres across the state.

The largest fire this spring impacted 352 acres south of Emporium in the Wykoff Run area and until there is a measurable amount of precipitation these “fires have the potential of rekindling even in somebody’s burn barrel,” Stelter said.

The DCNR wildfire prevention tips include keeping a 10-foot area around burn piles or burn barrels free from combustible materials to keep fires where they belong; when using a burn barrel make sure to have a lid made for the top with holes, no larger than a quarter inch to prevent the spread of the fire; keep debris piles small, less than four feet to help better maintain control of the fire; stay with the fire when burning debris, don’t leave it until it is out cold; have a hose, bucket of water, and a shovel and rake on site near the fire; don’t burn on days when it is sunny, dry and especially windy; and be aware of local burning bans that may be in place before starting a fire