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Burning ban in effect

February 28, 2002|By RICHARD F. BELISLE

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - A ban on outside burning was in effect in two southern Franklin County townships and an effort was under way to make the ban countywide, Michael A. Christopher, administrator for Washington Township, said.

Antrim Township's burn ban took effect at 8 a.m. Monday, said Bob Ebersole, chief of Greencastle, Pa.,'s Rescue Hose Co. No. 1. Washington Township's ban went into effect at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Christopher said.

The bans, which prohibit all outside fires, are needed because of the "unprecedented low water levels in reservoirs and wells," Christopher said.

John Fleagle, chief of the Blue Ridge Mountain Volunteer Fire and Rescue Squad, and Dale Fishack, chief of the Waynesboro, Pa., Fire Department, support the ban, Christopher said.

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Ebersole said he fears the extreme dry conditions that are the result of the current drought and the low water levels.

"If we have a fire we will definitely have a problem getting water," he said.

The water levels in the wells supplying Greencastle's water system are dropping each day, he said.

"We don't want to take water out of the system. It won't be able to recharge itself," he said.

In a normal year, the area gets about 41 inches of precipitation, said Waynesboro weather observer Todd Toth. In 2001, 21.8 inches of rain fell, he said.

According to Toth, about 2.6 inches of precipitation falls in a normal January. Last month, 1.98 inches were recorded. A normal February has 2.8 inches of precipitation. So far this month, .31 of an inch was recorded.

Christopher said a countywide burn ban requires 10 of the county's 21 fire chiefs to formally request one from Mike Kusko, chief forester at Michaux State Forest. Kusko, in turn, makes a formal request to the Franklin County Commissioners.

Kusko said Tuesday he is worried about the dry conditions and lack of water. Michaux State Forest covers more than 80,000 acres in Franklin, York and Cumberland counties. Its headquarters are in Fayetteville, Pa.

Kusko said that as of Tuesday, five Franklin County fire chiefs had requested a countywide ban. He said he won't know until the end of the week if more chiefs made the request because he would be away from his office.

The earliest a countywide ban could go into effect would be Tuesday when the commissioners meet next, he said.

Kusko said 10 fire chiefs each in York and Cumberland counties had requested countywide bans there.

"Some of them said they were not only worried about the fire danger, but the lack of water, too," Kusko said. "One said that if there was a mountain fire he would have to let it burn because there was not water to put it out."

Kusko said the current drought is as bad as he's seen. He likens it to a drought in the early 1960s. "That one went on for three years," he said. "We're already in our second year in this one."

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