Pennsylvania Governor’s Administration Warns of Heightened Fall Wildfire Dangers

With hunting and other outdoors activities increasing at a time when woodlands and brush can become tinder dry in just a few days, the Wolf Administration is urging all residents to guard against increased wildfire dangers in Pennsylvania’s 17 million acres of forestlands.

State officials noted a sustained dry period over much of the state comes at a time when wildfire dangers normally are high, and critical conditions can develop almost overnight in many forested areas of Pennsylvania.

“With rainfall varying greatly across the commonwealth, a dry windy span of just a few days quickly can make wildfires a very real threat,” said Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn. “Amid the pandemic we know so many are seeking outdoors pursuits. Hunting soon will be popular and fall foliage is a joy to behold, but when the leaves begin dropping and drying, they become added fuel for woodland fires.”

“Amid these conditions, it takes only a careless moment to ignite a devastating wildfires. We know debris burning is leading cause of wildfires throughout the state and more than 95 percent of Pennsylvania wildfires are caused by people,” Dunn said.

“While most Pennsylvanians are used to wildfires being confined to relatively far off places, these catastrophic events pose an escalating risk to communities throughout the commonwealth,” said State Fire Commissioner Bruce Trego.  “Increasingly, our state is being affected by weather patterns that turn fields and forests into accidents waiting to happen.”

The wildfire warning comes amid sparse rainfall and drying conditions, and as drought advisories are widening in Pennsylvania.

DCNR is responsible for administering a grant program paid through federal grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service. This program has awarded more than $14.5 million since it began in 1982. In 2019, more than $617,800 was awarded to 133 volunteer fire companies. Both Dunn and Trego encourage eligible departments to learn more about this important program for future grant opportunities.

With several deer and small-game hunting seasons opening in the coming weeks, both Dunn and Trego urged hunters and other woodlands visitors to be especially careful with smoking and fires amid dry vegetation.

Dunn noted the need to guard against wildfires increases each year as more development encroaches on heavily wooded tracts. Homeowners always should be diligent when burning trash and debris, she said.

Property owners should always consider the weather and conditions when burning outdoors. If it’s windy or dry, burning should be postponed until conditions change. A hose, rake, and shovel should be handy when burning outdoors, and any burnable materials cleared within 10 feet of a fire.

The Bureau of Forestry is working through state agencies and local fire companies to educate Pennsylvania citizens on procedures to make their homes in forest environments safer from wildfires. Information can be obtained from the Bureau of Forestry, county Emergency Management Office, or the Office of the State Fire Commissioner.

Details on wildfire prevention can be obtained at local forest districts and the Bureau of Forestry also maintains information on county burn bans in effect.