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Roughly 315 acres burn at state park

Firefighters have contained the brush fire that burned roughly 315 acres on Wednesday afternoon into Thursday night at the Lehigh Gorge State Park and Pennsylvania Game Commission property. The state park encompasses 4,548 acres in Carbon and Luzerne counties.

Although the fire was fully contained, Jim Thorpe Fire Company Chief Vince Yaich said the rain on Friday was a welcome sight.

Due to the rocky surface, steep grade and thick brush, “there were areas that were inaccessible,” he said. “This rain that came down today really helped to suppress these areas.”

Yaich said every fire department in Carbon County with a brush fire unit and a tanker came out to help the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources Wildland Fire Crew battle the fire.

He said they used a bulldozer and other equipment to dig a fire line in the area where the fire was moving toward. They battle these fires by setting a back fire, which means they set fire to the brush between the dirt fire line and the brush fire. This cuts off the blaze from more fuel.

“We actually fight fire with fire,” he said.

Yaich said the fire is being investigated by DCNR, but it looks like it was accidentally set near railroad tracks not far from the Glen Onoko Falls access point. State forestry officials think it was sparked by a combination of relatively low humidity, direct sunlight on leaves, and some wind.

No injuries were reported.

Yaich said the spring is usually the worst season for brush fires. This year, the season started early with the first brush fire in February. It usually isn’t until March. He said the mild winter complicates the situation, because there wasn’t enough snow to pack down the dry vegetation. This season may be a busy one.

“The last couple of years, we really haven’t had fires,” he said. “The fuel load is building up in the forest.”

With rain on Friday and rain expected for Saturday, Yaich said he thinks the fire danger is probably low. A good rule of thumb he said is, “If it’s a good day to hang out your laundry, then it’s a bad day to burn.”