HARRISBURG, Pa., April 12, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ --Pennsylvania's statewide trout season begins on April 14, prompting the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to urge anglers and other woodland visitors to take steps to prevent wildfires.
"We ask trout anglers and other visitors to be extremely careful because fire danger ranges from high to very high across much of the state," DCNR Secretary Richard Allan said. "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."
Open fires are forbidden on state forestland when the fire danger is listed as high, very high or extreme.
Recent wildfires driven by gusting winds and fueled by tinder-dry fields and forests have kept volunteer and Bureau of Forestry firefighters busy across much of the state. Most serious was a blaze that threatened homes, forced evacuations and left 400 to 500 acres scorched in the French Creek State Park area of Berks County.
In the past week, bureau personnel have responded to more than 140 fires that burned 1,201 acres, statewide. Three fires, including the Berks County blaze and others in Luzerne and Cameron counties, each burned more than 100 acres.
Allan cautioned that despite recent rain in some areas, lack of green foliage in the spring, scant earlier rainfall, low humidity and sunny, windy days all have increased chances of forest and brush fires spreading. Such fires are almost always traced to human carelessness, he said.
Nearly 10,000 acres of state forest are burned by wildfires each year, and nearly 85 percent of all fires in Pennsylvania woodlands occur during the months of March, April and May. Almost all of these fires threaten people and their homes, as well as trees and wildlife.
State forestry officials urge landowners to check with local municipalities to see if outdoor burning is allowed, and to avoid entirely or use extreme caution when burning trash and debris – one of the most common causes of wildfires.
Residents are also advised to create "safe zones" around homes and cabins by removing leaves and other debris from the ground and rain gutters, stack firewood away from structures and trim overhanging branches.
The Bureau of Forestry is responsible for the prevention and suppression of wildfires on Pennsylvania's 17 million acres of private and state-owned woodlands.
For more information on wildfire prevention, contact local district foresters; call the Bureau of Forestry at 717-787-2925; or visit www.dcnr.state.pa.us (select "Find a Forest" and then, "Wildfire").
Media contact: Christina Novak, 717-772-9101
SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources