Dry weather prompts burning bans in Tri-State area

November 24, 1998|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Barring a substantial rainfall in the next week, Franklin County will log its driest November on record, one that has kept firefighters busy battling brush fires.

As a result, some areas of Pennsylvania have instituted burning bans.

A burning ban also is in effect in a dry Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia.

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Firefighters from Mont Alto, Waynesboro and Blue Ridge Summit, Pa., spent 2 1/2 hours on Monday putting out a brush fire in Quincy Township, according to Mont Alto Deputy Fire Chief Ed Nunemaker.

Nunemaker said the brush fire started about 10 a.m. between Mormon Church and Bakner roads, where a resident had been burning trash.


"The fire got out of control and pushed it into a wooded area," Nunemaker said.

The fire got to within about 20 feet of two houses and a trailer before its was brought under control, Nunemaker said. It charred about an acre of underbrush, he said.

"Yeah, we've had quite a few. We've had some mountain fires, field fires and some brush fires," he said.

Franklin County Communications Coordinator Bryan Stevenson said 140 brush fires have been reported in the county since Oct. 10.

That date was the last time more than an inch of rain fell in the area, according to local weather observer Jerry Ashway of Chambersburg.

As of Sunday, Ashway had measured .43 inches of rainfall during November. The driest November on record was 1930, when .58 inches of rain fell, Ashway said.

According to the 1995 Pennsylvania County Data Book, Franklin County averaged 3.4 inches of precipitation each November between 1961 and 1990. The statewide average was 3.5 inches.

Ashway said rain was plentiful through July, with 10 more inches than the average falling up to that point. Since then, however, rainfall has been six inches short of what could have been expected to fall since August.

The dry spell has prompted a number of Pennsylvania municipalities to ban open burning. Antrim, Hamilton, Montgomery, Peters, Southampton, Warren and Washington townships and the borough of Mercersburg have declared bans on most or all outdoor burning.

In some cases, such as in Antrim and Hamilton townships, outdoor burning in burn barrels or incinerators is permitted. In Washington and Southampton townships, all outdoor burning is banned.

In Hamilton Township, residents can take leaves and yard debris to the farm of Clifford Hawbaker, 2300 Edenville Road, for composting.

Greene Township's board of supervisors is expected to discuss a burning ban at tonight's meeting. Nunemaker said he and the Mont Alto Volunteer Fire Co. chief will discuss reinstituting an earlier ban in the borough today.

Michaux State Forest, which covers part of Franklin and Adams counties, does not yet have a burn ban, but a burning ban is in effect at Buchanan State Forest in Fulton County, according to a park ranger.

In West Virginia's Eastern Panhandle the tinder-dry conditions prompted Gov. Cecil Underwood to issue a wide-ranging open burning ban last Thursday.

Berkeley County Dispatch Supervisor Margaret Hoogland said the ban makes it illegal to burn anything except outdoor grills, lanterns and liquid-fueled gas stoves. Camp fires, bonfires and burning leaves or debris are illegal.

The ban will remain in effect until the area receives at least an inch of rain, Hoogland said.

related story: Burning trash ignites woods fire

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