CLEARFIELD – On the eve of trout season the Pennsylvania Wildfire Prevention and Education Team called a press conference to hopefully prevent any fires this weekend. The wildfire prevention team is a part of the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
Rick Deppen, wildfire prevention specialist, explained that within Pennsylvania 95 percent of all wildfires can be traced back to a human cause, with almost all of those fires starting between the fifteenth of March and May before most plants are fully green.
The number one cause of fires are from out of control debris burning such as garbage. The second most common cause for wildfires is arson. With forecasts predicting low humidity and relatively high temperatures mixed with the next few days being windy, the wildfire prevention team explained that the conditions are favorable for a fires to get out of control. With people heading into the wilderness for fishing and other activities in this pleasant, if fire risk prone, weather, the wildfire prevention team wanted to get the warning out.
“The dangers are we lose seven to eight structures a year,” said Deppen.
He also explained every year several senior citizens die to wildfires. Wildfires have already claimed the lives of some this year. Usually senior citizens end up dying when their debris burning gets out of control and they try to put it out themselves.
“The thing to do to stop a fire is not to burn, but to recycle,” said Deppen.
Acknowledging that people still will continue to burn their garbage, Deppen explained the proper way to go about it to reduce the chance of harming lives and property. First use a barrel with quarter inch grating to keep bigger particles from escaping. Ventilation on the underside the barrel to facilitate in getting everything fully burned. Most important is to never leave a fire unintended, keep water nearby and have a ten foot clearing around the fire.
Cindy Frenzel, also with the DCNR, explained that the wildfire prevention team is concentrating in the Chesapeake Watershed area of the state with Northumblerland County last week and visiting Clearfield County this week. Wildfires in the watershed can pollute the state’s water sources and these two counties were listed as among the higher risk for wildfires.
Awareness several posters are in the works staring what the Frenzel called local celebrities for each area. For Clearfield County the selected celebrities are: Sean Owen, the Lady Tide softball team and RJ Corman. All posters feating Smokey the Bear.
When asked by the media present about what happens to a person who starts an accidental wildfire, Frenzel said that the person would be held responsible for any cost of putting the fire out if the DCNR Bureau of Forestry had to get involved. This was said to give a financial incentive to consider in doing one’s part to prevent wildfires.