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Fire chiefs provide tips to avoid starting a brush fire

March 20, 2019 Digital Media Exclusive

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Crews from the Adams Area Fire District extinguish a brush fire Tuesday in Mars.

With sunshine and warmer weather making sporadic appearances in the past few weeks, many in the county are taking advantage and cleaning up brush and debris from the winter.

However, burning those items not only violates municipal ordinances in many communities but can also cause greater issues.

An increase in brush fires has been noticeable in recent days. On Tuesday, two fires occurred about 30 minutes apart in Evans City and Mars, respectively. On Wednesday, crews worked to extinguish a similar fire in Valencia. All were brush fires that spread due to wind and other factors.

According to fire officials, conditions are right for such fires to spread rapidly and become out of control.

Scott Garing, Harmony Fire District chief, said throughout the county, fire departments have seen an uptick in brush fire calls in recent weeks. He said many people don't realize the vegetation on the ground currently is dry and burns easily. He said because of that, even small fires can spread quickly with a light wind.

According to Sean Sokolowski, Adams Area assistant fire chief, even a small breeze can turn into a strong gust in a matter of moments, making conditions unsafe.

“Pretty quickly they can become uncontrollable and we have to get involved,” Garing said.

Here are some safety tips recommended by local chiefs:

  • • Pile up compost and debris in a specific area.
  • • Wait until grass and vegetation is green and the weather turns warmer before burning compost and debris.
  • • Burning location should be in an open area away from any structures.
  • • Keep a hose nearby in case a fire becomes larger than intended.
  • • Know your local burning ordinances, some municipalities restrict the days and times during which fires can be burned.
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