In Pennsylvania, April is one of the months with the highest risks of wildfires. As the weather warms and more residents go camping, state officials are asking people to be mindful of woodland fire danger.
Among all recorded wildfires in the Keystone state, 99% are caused by people.
Mike Kern, chief forest fire warden for the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR), said spring and autumn months often produce drier conditions with low relative humidity. He added we still have some time to go until we have full green leaf cover throughout the state.
“That allows the dormant vegetation that we call the fuels to dry out faster,” Kern explained. “They’re more exposed to sunlight and wind. With a little bit of breeze, that can allow the fuels to burn more easily, essentially.”
Thousands of acres of state woodlands are burned by wildfires each year. Debris burning, equipment use, power lines and campfires are the most common causes of wildfires in Pennsylvania. Kern recommends residents planning to start a fire check the DCNR website on the day you intend to burn, to see if there is an elevated fire risk, or burning restrictions in your area.
Kern pointed out there are precautions residents can take to ensure their fire is contained. He emphasized from the beginning, it is important to clear the area to ensure there are no combustible items within 10 feet of the fire.
“Before you get started, have some water on hand, have a shovel, so that if it does get away you can put it out, or when you’re done with your fire you can put it out easily,” Kern advised. “Without some water around, it’s going to be tough to extinguish your campfire.”
Kern said before leaving a campsite, make sure all the ashes are completely out and cool to the touch. If a fire gets out of control, the DCNR recommended people immediately call 911.