After a reasonably open winter, it looks as if spring is upon us. Spring brings with it the threat of wildfires.
Warm, sunny days dry out grasses and leaf litter, which are the most-common fuels that make wildfires easy to ignite, according to Wayne Wynick, public information officer for the Moshannon Forest Firefighters Association.
“Everyone is familiar with Smokey Bear’s slogan … ‘Only You!’” he said. “Since nearly all wildfires in Pennsylvania are human caused in one way or another, that means we all need to be careful about becoming the source of a wildfire.”
He said debris burning is one of the primary causes of wildfires every year. He said this means that people should avoid outside fires on days that are prime for a fire to escape.
“Those days are warm, dry and usually have a bit of wind,” Wynick said. “Under those conditions, it takes very little breeze to move a spark into dry leaves or grass taking the fire out of your control.
“If you do intend to burn debris, please contact your local volunteer fire department, or the Pennsylvania Bureau of Forestry for information as to whether it is safe to do so.”
He continued, saying: “Remember, if you are determined to be the cause of a wildfire, by law, you are responsible for the costs to extinguish it.”
In Pennsylvania, Wynick said the forest fire warden has been designated since 1915 to deal with wildfires in the state. Unlike a volunteer fire department, he said their responsibilities are only in the area of wildfires, and they are empowered to have firefighting crews and respond to these incidents.
The MFFFA is an organization that operates as a wildfire crew, he said, and its focus is on fighting wildfires and also assisting the Bureau of Forestry with prescribed fires and in maintaining state forest resources, such as hiking trails and other facilities.
“A number of our firefighters have a great deal of experience both in-state and out-of-state and are willing to pass on that experience to others,” Wynick said. “Like all organizations, we are on the lookout for new members.
“If this sounds like something that would interest you, please contact us. We will make sure that you receive the necessary training to qualify as a wildland firefighter in Pennsylvania.”
He said there will also be opportunities to upgrade that training for the qualifications to travel nationally to assist communities threatened by uncontrolled wildfires that have been occurring with greater frequency in recent years.