How you can help prevent wildfires during a very dry winter

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WALKER TOWNSHIP, SCHUYLKILL COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) Dry conditions and warmer than usual temperatures have made it great to get out and enjoy the outdoors.

Unfortunately, it’s also provided ideal conditions for wildfire.

With no snow on the ground, it takes very little sun and wind to dry light fuels and make them susceptible to ignition.

So, we went out in the woods today to learn more about how vegetative health plays just as important a role as climate in sparking wildfires.

“We did as many calls this past weekend as we did all of last year,” said Dave Duffy, a forest fire warden.

Most of us associate this time of year with snow and ice.

However, if you look around now in Schuylkill County you see a lot of brown — not white.

“We had two dry days with very, very low relative humidity,” Duffy told us.

When relative humidity is low, grass and weeds dry faster and burn easier.

“Everything is tinder dry,”

Combine the dry grass, weeds and dead leaves with the occasional downed tree branches and you have a landscape that has an abundance of fuel for wildfire.

Add a little bit of wind, some warm days and no rain and the ground in Northeastern and Central Pennsylvania is perfect kindling for a fire this winter.

“Due to lack of a good, heavy snow pack that would push these leaves down you’ll see that these leaves are staying very fluffy with a lot of edges for the fire to catch and a lot of places for the air to get in around them. Fire loves this when it’s nice and fluffy leaf litter on the fire floor because your light fuels like your leaves small twigs. That’s what carries the fire to the bigger fuels and then they light off which maintain a fire,” said Duffy.

“The biggest thing is everyone’s gotta be careful, remember if you’re going to burn your pile because it’s easy to burn, everything around it is also easy to burn,” he added.

Experts say you should make sure to always have tools and water nearby.

“Clear a 10 foot area around your burn fire so that that fire can’t easily creep along the other fuels,” Duffy recommended.

Some steps you can take to lessen wildfire danger and to help control a fire when one breaks out are to:

  • Have a labeled street number at the end of your driveway and road sign names visible.
  • Stack firewood away from your house.
  • Check out your options other than burning like chippers or composting
  • Watch weather forecasts and avoid burning on dry, windy days.
  • Make sure to have a water source, shovel and other fire-fighting tools handy.

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