The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

April 3, 2014

More Montour County brush fires since January than in last 2 years combined

By Robert Stoneback
The Danville News

— DANVILLE — In the last two to three weeks, Montour County has seen more brush fires than in the last two years combined, according to Valley Township Fire Chief Mike Kull.

“Weather conditions have sort of made the perfect storm for brush fires,” said Kull, who is also a forest fire warden.

Currently, there have been about eight to nine brush fires in Montour County, with the average per year being three to four, Kull said.

None of the fires so far this year have resulted in injuries or damaged structures, Kull said. The largest one occurred in West Hemlock Township and covered nearly two acres before firefighters were able to contain it and put it out.

“With longer winters and heavy snow falls and extreme cold, folks that usually burn their trash have had things build up over the winter time,” Kull said. That combined with the recent high winds, low humidity and current low moisture level in organic fuels such as grass, trees and twigs, has created ideal conditions for fire to spread.

The county’s most recent brush fire occurred on Tuesday, only days after a late spring snow. Its cause was a tree that had been laying against a power line, causing sparks to arc out, Kull said. The sun and breeze sapped the moisture out of the nearby plants and vegetation with the end result being a quarter acre of woodland catching fire.

A brush fire last week in West Chillisquaque Township damaged a vacant home after it was ignited by sparks from a person using a metal grinder.

“It’s really an unsafe time to burn,” Kull said. Conditions should improve if predicted showers arrive and bring more moisture to the area.

He recommended anybody looking to burn garbage to set their barrel on ground that has no combustible material within 10 feet. Three-inch holes should be cut along the bottom of the burn barrel, with the holes covered by screening. A screen should also be set over the barrel to keep materials inside.

Residents can also safely dispose of paper materials — including magazines, newspaper, cardboard, office paper, any dry and clean loose paper — at dumpsters outside the Valley Township and Anthony Township municipal buildings instead of burning them, Kull said.

Nine out of 10 fires in Pennsylvania are caused by humans, and of those 80 percent are the result of people burning debris, Kull said. “These fires are very preventable if you follow some safe burning guidelines. We could really reduce the amount of fires we’re having.”

Email comments to rstoneback@thedanvillenews.com.