Schuylkill County has been experiencing extended periods of low humidity and insufficient rainfall, resulting in very dangerous fire conditions.

Therefore, on the recommendation of the District Forester of the Weiser Forest District, Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources , the Schuylkill County Commissioners have approved a county-wide ban on open burning that will take effect at noon on Friday April 20, 2012 and will remain in place until noon on Sunday May 20, 2012.

As of 3 p.m. today, there have been 52 fires since the beginning of April, making this the sixth highest number for this month since 2001, and there are still 12 days left.

These fires have put a tremendous strain on firefighters and endanger watershed and residential areas. Adjacent counties have either enacted or are considering burn bans. The commissioners hope this action will raise awareness within the community and limit the danger of uncontrolled fires. They urge the public to adhere to these temporary restrictions in the interest of everyone's safety.

Under the ban, residents are forbidden from any outdoor burning of items such as garbage, leaves, grass, twigs, litter and paper. Grilling in proper containers is still permitted; however, the ban forbids lighting fires in outdoor burn barrels or fire rings. Residents violating the ban face fines up to $100 for the first, $200 for the second and $300 for each additional violation. Violators are also responsible for the cost of extinguishment of any wildland fire they cause; the expenses may run into thousands of dollars.

Businesses may request an exemption to the burn ban. A letter of explanation detailing the adverse economic effects of the burn ban must be submitted to the Schuylkill County Emergency Management Agency for review and consideration.

The last time a burn ban was issued in the county was in July of 2010. Rainfall, forest and ground cover conditions are being evaluated continually by DCNR personnel and they may recommend an extension or an early lifting of the ban as conditions dictate. Questions can be directed to the county's Emergency Management Agency at (570) 622-3739.