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Lack of rain not helping wildfires

The Tri-State’s current dry climate have created dangerous fire conditions, forestry experts warn.

Wednesday, November 14, 2001

The Tri-State’s current dry climate have created dangerous fire conditions, forestry experts warn.

Since Oct. 9, the area has received less than two inches of rain – an unofficial rain gauge estimate from the Wayne National Forest’s Ironton ranger station, but significant, said Terry Krasko, fire information officer for The Wayne.

"With the winds and warm weather, it just makes for pretty explosive conditions," said Krasko, who was in Lawrence County Tuesday.

In fact, 15 forest fires sparked within the national forest’s four-county protection area within the last month, he said.

Recently, volunteer fire departments throughout Lawrence County have responded to brush fires weekly, and sometimes daily.

Some firefighters are working almost around the clock, Krasko said.

"Two nights ago, we were out until 3 a.m. fighting at Rock Hollow near Hanging Rock," he said.

Even a tiny spark and a little wind can not only cause a fire but also move one across a fire line in a matter of minutes, he added.

It’s been about a month since any significant rainfall has occurred, Krasko explained, adding that the last rainfall was only one-third of an inch on Oct. 25.

Since the leaves have dropped and cured out, it’s made for extreme burning conditions and lots of brush fires – half from innocent incidents, such as trash fires getting out of hand; and half from arson, he said.

The Wayne is bringing in a 20-person crew from New Hampshire to help battle potential problems, and is stepping up law enforcement to try to catch those who illegally set fires.

State and local authorities caution everyone to be careful during brush and forest fire season. Although state law allows open burning between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m., local authorities can ban burning altogether – either permanently or temporarily.

Hamilton Township, for instance, does not allow open burning at all. For information about your area, contact your local fire chief.

The forest service emphasizes care with any fires or fire sources, like trash bins and cigarettes, which if get out of hand can cause major blazes, Krasko said.

"And, what I want to emphasize is what it’s doing to our people, not only from the forest service but the volunteer firefighters," he said. "They work a lot of hours and don’t get paid for it; and it’s dangerous work."

It hasn’t happened here, but there have been fatalities due to forest fires in the eastern United States, he added.

Setting a fire can be considered arson, which is a crime punishable with jail time.

Protect the forest and protect the firefighters by being careful with fire during this dry season, Krasko said.