Early warm-up sparking spring-like emergencies

NEW BUFFALO, Pa. (WHTM) — With the early arrival of warm temperatures across the Midstate, local fire companies are seeing an uptick in emergencies not typically seen until spring.

“This year, it seems like more brush fires, everything is dry,” said Captain Jeffrey Woods of the New Buffalo Fire Company, Station 9. “People are working in their yards a month or a month-and-a-half ahead of what they usually do.”

According to Woods, whose company maintains a specialized 4-wheel drive brush truck in cooperation with the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the vehicle is “rarely” used during the month of February. However, this year’s apparent quick end to winter makes the pickup loaded with various forms of wildfire fighting equipment among the most valuable in the fleet.

“Usually, there’s a snow cover or everything is wet,” Woods said. “Also, we have a lot of area around here that is forest. In Pennsylvania, fires burn deep into the ground because there is so many leaves packed down. That’s not to say someone couldn’t start a fire in their backyard. Things are still that brown and dry and driven by winds.”

Woods says property owners can avoid starting a wildfire by waiting until we receive some rain to soak the ground or simply wait a few weeks until vegetation begins to “green up.” If someone must burn, Wood suggests they first check local ordinances to make sure it is lawful, then burn only inside a metal barrel covered by a metal screen to prevent burning debris from escaping.

Fires are not the only emergencies occurring prematurely this season.

“I’ve heard of more motorcycle accidents this month than I think I have the whole time I’ve been in the fire service for the month of February,” Woods said. “Some of it could be because of the amount of salt and cinders that remain on the road. Riders can slip and lay the bikes down on their sides.”

Woods also believes many motorcyclists are itching to ride at the first sign of warm weather, but other motorists aren’t accustomed to sharing the road with motorcycles in February, causing accidents.

Woods says while the rare mix of the winter and spring seasons that we’re experiencing has slowed down vehicle accidents caused by snow and ice, other winter calls have persisted. He says those who use wood burning stoves or fireplaces tend to take shortcuts when the weather starts to get warmer.

“You should actually burn a wood burner very hot at least once a day. In this weather, they don’t do that,” he said. “They keep it banked down, build the creosote in the chimney and it leads to a chimney fire.”

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