HARRISBURG — As hunting and other outdoor activities increase at a time when woodlands and brush can become tinder dry in just a few days, the state Bureau of Forestry is urging all residents to guard against wildfire outbreaks in Pennsylvania’s 17 million acres of forestlands.
State officials said Gov. Edward G. Rendell’s proclamation of Fire Prevention Week, Oct. 7-13, coincides with traditionally heightened autumn wildfire dangers in state woodlands.
“Though we have had much-needed rain across most of the state recently, a dry, windy span of just a few days can quickly make forest wildfires a very real threat,” said Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Secretary Michael DiBerardinis. “It takes only a careless moment to ignite a devastating forest fire.”
With the recent start of archery deer hunting season, and two small-game seasons opening this month, DiBerardinis urged hunters to avoid smoking amid dry vegetation. To safeguard against wildfires, campfires and other open burning are forbidden from Oct. 1 to Dec. 1 in all state forestlands.
DiBerardinis said the need to guard against wildfires increases each year as more development encroaches heavily wooded tracts. Homeowners always should be diligent when burning trash and debris, he said.
“Even though the trees and vegetation appear green and healthy, they sometimes are really dry, and the reality is that many homes could be destroyed by a wildfire,” said DiBerardinis, who said debris burning and arson are the leading causes of wildfires throughout the state.
The Bureau of Forestry is working with state agencies and local fire companies to educate Pennsylvania citizens on ways to protect homes in forest environments. Information can be obtained from the Bureau of Forestry, county emergency management office, or the Office of the State Fire Commissioner.
During this week, which carries the theme, “It’s Fire Prevention Week – Practice Your Escape Plan,” residents, schools, businesses and civic organizations will be encouraged to participate in fire prevention activities that focus on developing and practicing fire-escape plans, and help assure homes, workplaces and schools are equipped with smoke detectors and fire suppression systems.