According to the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the state of Pennsylvania experienced nearly twice as many wildfires “as had been normal for the 21st century.”
In 2021, the state experienced 1,371 fires and 1,507 in 2020. However, in 2020 and 2021, it was rare to witness less than 1,000 fires each year. Although the number has increased, the average number of acres burned last year was lower than the 10-year average of 3,500.
“Pennsylvania’s 2021 wildfire season started off with a large number of fires in March. But more acres burned in April,” claimed a report from the Wildland Fire Program of Bureau of Forestry. “Dry conditions in the spring were prevalent in northwestern counties.”
Based on the report, pretty much every wildfire from last year was man-made. Tragically, the fires took the lives of four people, injured 17, destroyed 5 homes, and demolished 35 other buildings.
Last year, Pennsylvania residents contacted search and rescue operations 32 times. 9 individuals managed to get themselves out of danger on their own. However, two searches ended when authorities found the focus of the search dead.
According to ABC27, 2021 marked Pennsylvania as one of the hottest years for the state. It also means that the change in climate coupled with new constructions mean more fires.
“These fires are different from most of the fires we’ve been seeing across the West, in the sense that they’re grass fires and they’re occurring in the winter,” said Jonathan Overpeck, a professor from the School for Environment and Sustainability at the University of Michigan.
Mike Kern, from the Bureau of Forestry’s Division of Forest Fire Protection, gave a similar statement to WITF’s Smart Talk. “The potential is here, with the wrong weather conditions and extended periods of drought, that we could have some fairly significant wildfires that I think would open a lot of people’s eyes.”
Ways to Help Prevent Wildfires in Pennsylvania
As much as many of us enjoy the taste of smores of hotdogs, we can’t forget the clean-up afterward. So, what should we remember when it comes to outdoor burning?
According to DCNR, burning debris is the most common cause of wildfires in Pennsylvania. The agency claimed that property owners should consider the weather and conditions when burning outdoors. Windy or dry weather is worse for burning.
When burning outdoors, it’s a good idea to have a rake, shovel, and water hose nearby. Flammable objects should not be within 10 feet of fire.
If possible, allow the wood to burn until it becomes a pile of ash. After that, pour a lot of water over the fire to put it out. If there is no water available, stir dirt or sand into the embers with a shovel. Make sure all of the material has cooled down before leaving the scene.