Forestry personnel fight wildfires in other states

Forestry personnel fight wildfires in other states

27 May 2011

published by www.theprogressnews.com


USA — Fire season arrives every spring, but this spring the local area received a lot of rain, causing the grass to green up quickly and allowing those who work with the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, Bureau of Forestry to do other things.
Two local men, Paul Hense of Punxsutawney and Wayne Wynick of Clearfield, returned a couple of weeks ago from fighting fires in other areas of the country.
Hense was sent to Texas on April 17 and while there was at a number of fires. Wynick explained that when fires get out of hand, such as they were in Texas and Florida, where Wynick was, additional resources are called in to help.
Hense was in charge of communications and was responsible for keeping the radios programmed and keeping everyone on the right frequency.
He said the fires he was at were huge, and one minute a fire could be 60 acres and before you know it, it’s 300,000 acres.
This is the earliest in the year Hense can recall any District Nine personnel begin sent out of the state, because typically it’s the spring fire season here.
Hense left for Texas on April 17, and he returned home on May 10.
“We don’t get holidays at times like this,” Hense said, noting her was gone during Easter.
Wynick was at the Jarhead Fire in Florida, near Miami, and he was a public information officer. The tourist season was coming to an end when the fire broke out, which was caused by lightning.
When it was over, that blaze had consumed 38,130 acres and several buildings, but he said thankfully only two firefighters sustained minor injuries.
The most devastating event was when a panther den got burned over and four kittens perished in the blaze.
Wynick said access to the blaze was tough, and it was mainly accessed via pickup trucks. He estimates about 375 firefighters were on the blaze at the height of it. He said the fire is contained but not completely out yet as there are some smoldering spots.
Wynick said there are a couple of reasons why fires don’t get out of hand in Pennsylvania as they do in other states, and one of those is the volunteer fire companies. He said when a fire breaks out here, 911 is notified and the fire companies respond immediately, which keeps them from spreading so rapidly. He said there are different fuels in Pennsylvania, which keeps them from taking off as well.
Hense said there is a major drought in Texas right now and the forestry officials and volunteer firefighters just couldn’t contain the hundreds of fires in that state. Most of those fires were either caused by lightning or accidentally. He said accidental causes could be from a chain dragging on the road or a vehicle starting in dry brush and a spark setting a fire. He said it is so dry, there is a 100 percent chance for ignition.
Two volunteer firefighters were killed in Texas while fighting the fires. Hense said the fire turned so fast, the firefighters couldn’t get out of its path and it overran them.
He said at least one of the Texas fires was 300,000 acres in size. He said there are easily more than 100 fires burning and more starting every day.
Airplanes and helicopters were also used to fight the blazes including a DC 10 plane that can haul 12,000 gallons and spread it over a mile.
“They’re spreading into Mexico and Arizona now,” Hense said.
Both Hense and Wynick said there is a very good possibility they could be redeployed in the near future, along with other forestry firefighters out of the Moshannon District Office.


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