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Schuylkill burn ban starts Friday

Published April 20. 2017 01:23PM

Schuylkill County has banned open burning for 30 days as of noon Friday.

Commissioners took the action at a regular public meeting Wednesday on the recommendation of Emergency Management Coordinator John Matz and District Forester Timothy Ladner.

The ban is expected to end at noon May 21.

Matz told commissioners he was recommending the ban at the request of the county fire chiefs, who met Tuesday.

According to the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, open burning is defined as the "ignition and subsequent burning of any combustible material (garbage, leaves, grass, twigs, litter, paper, vegetative matter involved with land clearing, or any sort of debris) out-of-doors either in a burn barrel or on the ground."

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 of $100 for the first offense, $200 for the second and $300 for each additional violation. Violators are also responsible for the cost of extinguishing any wildland fire they cause, Matz said in a prepared statement.

The use of propane or gas stoves, charcoal briquette grills, or the use of tobacco in any form is not covered under county burn bans. Camp fires are allowed in the fire rings that confine and contain the camp fire in a designated state, federal or Department of Environmental Protection licensed campground.

Schuylkill's ban comes five days after DCNR on April 14 issued a warning about the dangers of wildfires.

"We ask trout anglers and other forest visitors to be extremely careful this weekend because fire danger is increasing rapidly amid sunny, warm days and little rainfall," said DCNR Secretary Cindy Adams Dunn. "One act of carelessness could prove disastrous among tinder-dry conditions in some of our forests, where wildfire dangers climb with each day of sun and wind."

DCNR forbids open fires on state forest land from March 1 through May 25, and when fire danger is listed as high, very high or extreme. A person who has caused a wildfire, in addition to possible criminal penalty, is liable for damages, costs of extinction and fines.

"We remind folks to be careful with campfires and backyard burning, and to take the proper precautions at all times," Dunn said. "One has to only look back on this week to see how fires spike quickly when the combination of sun, wind and lack of rain create tinderlike conditions. Just this week, despite a wet start, there were more than 60 fires that burned at least 600 acres."

In 2015, a total of 817 wildfires burned 4,165 acres in Pennsylvania.

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