The Lead

DCNR, Bureau of Forestry urges caution as seasonal risk of wildfires increases

By: - March 22, 2022 12:49 pm

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The state agency that oversees Pennsylvania’s 2.2 million acres of state forest lands is warning residents to be cautious of increased risk of wildfires as spring continues. 

The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) warned residents on Tuesday that the spring months of March, April, and May present a heightened risk of wildfires across the commonwealth. 

“Spring is here and that means more people [are] spending time recreating outdoors, which is why it is important to remind the public of the danger of wildfires,” DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn said. “One act of carelessness when lighting a camp or bonfire could prove disastrous among tinder-dry conditions in some of our forests, where wildfire dangers climb with each day of sun and wind.”

Wildfires can occur when dry weather conditions and fuel sources, such as dried leaves and grasses, are present. Likewise, the department noted that 99 percent of wildfires are caused by people. 

DCNR reports that debris burning, equipment use, power lines, and campfires, are some of the most common causes of wildfires in Pennsylvania.

DCNR’s Bureau of Forestry advises that Pennsylvanians starting a campfire: 

  • Clear the area around the fire prior to starting it;
  • Keep the fire small and never leave it unattended;
  • Before you strike a campfire match, first consider if it is too warm, dry or windy for a fire and if the surrounding area is free of leaves and other combustibles;
  • Make sure there is a ready source of water (bucket or hose) nearby and a rake to extinguish any embers that might escape; and
  • When you are done with the fire, put it out with water until all ashes are cold to the touch.

“Our firefighters work hard to suppress blazes year-round and many of them are preventable if people take the proper steps to practice safe behaviors,” State Forester Ellen Shultzabarger said. “We want to remind people to be careful with campfires and backyard burning and to take the proper precautions at all times. It can help save lives and protect wildlife habitats.”

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Cassie Miller
Cassie Miller

A native Pennsylvanian, Cassie Miller worked for various publications across the Midstate before joining the team at the Pennsylvania Capital-Star. In her previous roles, she has covered everything from local sports to the financial services industry.