wildfire is an uncontrolled fire in an area of combustible vegetation that
occurs in the countryside or rural area.
DCNR’s Bureau of Forestry is responsible for protecting the commonwealth’s 17
million acres of public and private wildlands from damage by wildfire.
This is accomplished by a combination of:
The bureau works with fire wardens and
volunteer fire departments to promote the latest advances in fire prevention
wildland firefighters also fight blazes throughout the nation.
greatest danger of wildfires in Pennsylvania is during the spring months of March,
April, and May, and the autumn months of October and November. In Pennsylvania,
98 percent of our wildfires are caused by people.
conditions are necessary for a wildfire to occur:
An available fuel source, such as grasslands or fields
Dry conditions, including the fuel source
An ignition source -- some way for the fire to start
first two factors occur most frequently in Pennsylvania during the spring and
autumn. As the spring sun climbs higher in the sky, days become longer and
warmer. The trees are bare during this time allowing the sunlight to reach the
forest floor, warming the ground and drying last fall’s leaves.
with the fact that the winds in the spring are often very strong and dry, leads
to a tremendous amount of fuel ready to burn. During the fall, the leaves turn
color and begin to fall, accumulating in a deep fluffy layer that creates a
third factor -- ignition source -- also occurs during these periods.
the major causes of forest fires in Pennsylvania is debris burning. A
careless person burning accumulated trash can be responsible for causing
thousands of acres of valuable Pennsylvania forests to burn. These fires most
frequently start in someone’s backyard and travel through the dead grass and
weeds into the bordering woodlands.
course, wildfires can occur during any month, at any time of the day, destroying
valuable woodlands and wildlife habitat, and threatening human lives, homes, and
media often give more coverage to spectacular western wildfires, more fires
occur east of the Mississippi River than west.
can review these tips on reducing the
risk of wildfire (PDF).
burning is the most common cause of wildfires in Pennsylvania. Check with your
township for burn bans and local ordinances on debris burning.
prevention is a message brought to people across the country by the well-known
figure Smokey Bear. Detailed information about wildfire prevention as well as
materials for kids and educators is on the Smokey Bear website.
Reducing the Risks of
figures for the first decades of the 21st century show more people in the
Northeastern U.S. moving from suburban to rural areas to make their home near
or within the forest. Firefighters call the area where homes and development
meet and intermingle with undeveloped wildland the “wildland-urban interface.”
Pennsylvania has a higher percentage of homes
in the wildland-urban interface than any other state in the nation.
moving into the wildland urban interface often make choices that increase the
potential for their homes to be destroyed by wildfire. With more people there
is increased risk of fires caused by:
the wildland urban interface, it is especially important to properly plan new
housing areas and to develop good standards for existing ones. Planning for
wildland fire protection considers:
Local fire codes
communities reduce risk of fire emergencies by addressing and correcting
fire hazards. Municipalities can participate in the Pennsylvania Firewise Medal Community program (PDF).