Share This Page

Firefighters warn time, conditions right for brush fires

| Saturday, March 29, 2014, 1:06 a.m.

Meteorologists may call it spring, but Alle-Kiski Valley fire departments know it as brush fire season.

“March is pretty much one of the prime months for brush fires,” said Bill George, chief of Sarver Volunteer Fire Company in Buffalo Township.

George said his unit has responded to its share of brush fires this year.

“You see all that brown, dead grass or brush, it doesn't take much to ignite,” he said. “All the (brush fires) we've been on this year have been unintended fires. People burning garbage and they lost control.”

According to Armstrong County 911 Coordinator Ron Baustert, there have been nine brush fires in the county this year — six of which occurred last weekend.

Fred McMullen, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Moon, said certain weather conditions need to be met for a brush fire to occur naturally.

“You need strong winds, greater than 20 miles an hour,” he said. “And relative humidity below 20 percent.”

McMullen said this is one of the two prime fire seasons.

“Spring and fall,” he said. “In the spring, everything is starting to dry out.”

He said smaller fuel — leaves and twigs — dries out the fastest. “They could start something.”

Jim Rearick, chief at Markle Volunteer Fire Department in Allegheny Township, said his crews responded to two brush fires on Wednesday.

“One wasn't called in,” Rearick said. “A guy was doing a controlled burn, but it wasn't as controlled as he thought. Our guys saw it while they were out for the other (brush fire) and helped him.”

Rearick and George said most of the brush fires they respond to are accidentally caused by people.

“With the weather getting nice, people want to get out in their yard,” Rearick said. “They want to clean it up. They don't realize with this wind how fast it can get out of control.”

Rearick said he wouldn't recommend burning winter's waste with the recent weather conditions.

“If the weather's windy like this, you shouldn't burn at all,” he said.

Rearick said most brush fires aren't hard to fight, but they often occur during fire departments' down time.

“Most of these happen during the day, when our manpower is short and most of our guys are at work,” he said. “It's always a little bit more intense when the fire threatens a structure. That's when these can turn bad.”

According to meteorologist McMullen, conditions won't be right for brush fires in the coming weeks.

“We're going to an active pattern with systems every couple days,” he said. “The weather won't be right for them.”

R.A. Monti is a freelance writer.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.