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Countywide burn ban to be considered in Franklin Co.

April 04, 2006|by DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Thunderstorms on Monday evening brought some relief to dry conditions but the Franklin County Board of Commissioners is considering a 30-day countywide burn ban.

County Commissioner Bob Thomas said Monday the county will consider a resolution this afternoon to impose a 30-day burn ban. The county might impose a ban if one is recommended by the county Fire Chief's Association and the local district forester for the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) Bureau of Forestry, he said.

Despite the storm, Dusty Stoner, chief of Mercersburg Montgomery Peters and Warren (MMPW) Fire Department in Mercersburg, Pa., said Monday that the Fire Chiefs Association would likely stand by the recommendation it made for a burn ban at its monthly meeting a week ago.

"If the wind picks up for a day or two ... it's going to dry everything back up again," said Stoner, president of the Fire Chiefs Association. The rain came through hard and fast Monday and might not have penetrated the underbrush that can fuel mountain and brush fires, he said.

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Stoner said some local municipalities have enacted burn bans due to dry conditions. Those local governments can rescind the bans if elected officials believe conditions permit safe outdoor burning, but a countywide ban would be different, he said.

"Once it's in place, it's 30 days regardless," Stoner said. At the end of that period, the fire chiefs and district forester would have to follow the same process to request an extension of the ban, he said.

"We've been involved in a fair number of brush and mountain fires" in recent weeks, said Waynesboro Fire Chief Ron Flegel. That includes areas outside his department's primary area of coverage in Waynesboro and portions of Washington and Quincy townships, he said.

Waynesboro received just shy of half an inch of rain Monday, said local weather observer Todd Toth. Average precipitation for the first three months of the year is 8.9 inches, but the area received 6.24 inches in January, February and March, he said.

The precipitation deficit, however, goes back to last year, Toth said. The weather was drier than normal for September through December, leaving the area 3.4 inches short of normal precipitation for 2005.

"Nearly 85 percent of Pennsylvania's wildfires occur in March, April and May, before the greening of state woodlands and brush lands," according to a DCNR statement issued last month for Wildfire Prevention Week. Wildfires destroy nearly 10,000 acres of state forest each year, but cause more damage on private lands, according to DCNR.

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