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Published March 31. 2011 05:00PM

Spring is a time when the weather begins to change, the air begins to warm and spring breezes begin to dry the dead vegetation and other debris left from the previous fall and winter. The heavy winter snow cover has disappeared and the temperatures are beginning to rise. Homeowners and others are anxious to tidy-up their lawns and properties that were impacted by this past winter's snow pack and recent rains. Many people dispose of the debris that has accumulated during the winter by burning. They are unaware of the risks to life and property that their actions may have.

The period from late February to late May can be trying times for firefighters and other emergency management officials. In the spring when temperature rise into the 50s, the humidity and dew point temperatures are low at times when debris and campfires can escape into the grass and woodlands very quickly. Even with a morning shower grass, leaves and other fine fuels dry out within an hour on breezy sunny afternoons. Without regular rain larger fuels can dry within several hours.

Wildland firefighting is extremely strenuous and fatiguing. This causes stress on emergency management personnel and is a cause for concern for their safety when called to other emergencies such as accidents and structure fires.

More than ninety percent of wildfires are caused by humans and are preventable.

Individuals who cause a forest fire are responsible for the cost of extinguishing them. The costs can run in the thousands of dollars. They may also be cited.

The Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Bureau of Forestry and County Emergency Management Agencies are asking people to refrain from burning during this period of high fire danger.

Last year the Schuylkill County Commissioners with the support of the Weiser District Forester imposed a burn ban. This ban on debris burning was an attempt to reduce the number of wildland fires. During the period that the ban was in place the County recorded 11 fires that burned out of control. Burn bans are an effective tool in reducing the number of uncontrolled fires. Burn bans are cumbersome to enact, difficult to enforce and a burden to some residents of the community. The County and DCNR, Bureau of Forestry are asking the residents to use good judgment if they do burn their trash and other debris during this period of high fire danger. As long as the number of controlled fires remains low during this period of high fire danger, County and Bureau officials will not be forced to impose a ban on burning.

Remember Smokey Bear Says "Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires."

Mark W. Deibler

District Forester

Weiser Forest District

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