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Temporary burn bans for three municipalities

Lack of rain increases wildfire dangers

July 31, 2020 Digital Media Exclusive

Three more municipalities in southern Butler County have implemented temporary burn bans due to increasingly dry weather conditions.

Seven Fields and Zelienople boroughs as well as Jackson Township based their emergency bans on the advice of the Adams Area and Harmony fire districts, which warned of the increased chance of wildfires as a result of dry conditions.

“When the (Harmony) Fire District chief mentioned it to us (Thursday), we started discussing who we needed to do it and what we needed to do,” Zelienople borough manager Don Pepe said. “And it was clear that, to make it effective, all of the municipalities in the district needed to do that.”

Bans in all three municipalities affect open burning, which includes camp and recreational fires.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, through its partnership-created U.S. Drought Monitor, has said the southern tier of Butler County is in a moderate drought, with the remaining northern half in “abnormally dry” conditions. According to the agency, the risk of fire is elevated in abnormally dry areas, while “wildfires and ground fires increase” in moderate drought areas.

Butler County has averaged 4.17 inches of rain each July, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and Zelienople Mayor Thomas Oliverio said the current rainfall shortage in the southern half of the county is at least 2.5 inches this year.

The U.S. Forest Service's Wildland Fire Assessment System pegged the entirety of Butler County as a “moderate” fire danger Friday, but had in days past put Seven Fields in the “high” fire danger category.

Seven Fields' burn ban is in effect until further notice; Zelienople, which began its ban Friday, will lift it “when the color returns to the vegetation after a significant rainfall.”

“We're thankful that the Adams Area Fire District was proactive enough to reach out to the municipalities within its jurisdiction and advise residents of the dangers of outdoor burning at this time of the year,” Tom Smith, Seven Fields borough manager, said.