Dry March brings burn bans

Christopher Dornblaser

Yorkers should think twice when lighting an open fire, authorities say.

This month has been especially dry, and some municipalities are responding by implementing burn bans, forbidding people from lighting an open fire due to potential for a dangerous fire to spread.

What is a burn ban?: A burn ban is a ban on open fires, because the dry and windy conditions could cause a fire to spread. The only fires exempt from the ban are those from residential grills.

Chris Wentz, assistant fire chief for Dover Township Volunteer Fire Department, said a lot of the problems are with people burning yard clippings and rubbish, but the municipalities still ban all other fires.

"To alleviate all the confusion, we just do a total ban," he said.

According to AccuWeather, this March has been the driest March in a decade, causing burn bans to come up earlier than usual. Wentz said typically the burn bans come in closer to the summer.

Despite the earlier warnings, the threat is still very real.

"(Fires have) a potential to become uncontrollable," Wentz said.

Aaron Tyburski, meteorologist for the National Weather Service, said because of the angle of the sun, dry, warm conditions, and dry leaves on the ground, the risk for a fire is there.

"When we combine all of those, that's why we're getting a lot of the burn bans," he said.

When will the bans end?: In order to lift the burn bans, the ground must be moist from significant rainfall, diminishing the chance of a fire spreading. On Thursday night, the county saw a bit of rainfall but not enough to stop the dry conditions, and significant rain might not come anytime soon.

“It’s gonna take a little while to get the ground saturated,” Tyburski said.

Tyburski said the county is looking to get some rain Sunday into Monday but not nearly enough to alleviate the dry conditions. To make matters worse, he said the potential rainfall will likely be followed by a few sunny days, bringing about more of the dry conditions causing burn bans.

“Even a little bit of rain we get Sunday night into Monday, we follow that up with pretty sunny weather,” he said.

Tyburski said the weather could be cooler at the beginning of April, potentially leading to less risk of fire. According to Tyburski, the risk will decrease come May, when the leaves come in, because they will have moisture, which in turn has less of a risk of fire.

Dry March:  Danielle Knittle, meteorologist for AccuWeather, said this March has been the driest March since 2006. So far, March has had 27 percent of the typical precipitation for the month, the lowest it has been since it was at 14 percent in March 2006.

“Things aren’t going to change a whole lot,” she said, adding that any upcoming storm systems would be "in and out."

Knittle said typical precipitation for March is 3.68 inches. So far this March, there has only been 1.04 inches of precipitation.

Last year, because of snow, the county had 112 percent of the usual precipitation in March, according to Knittle. Tyburski said the dry conditions the county has seen are a stark contrast to 2015 and 2014, because at this time during those years, there was still snow on the ground.

Firefighters put out a brush fire along Biesecker and KBS Rd. Tuesday Mar. 1, 2016 in Thomasville, Jackson, PA. Amanda J. Cain photo

"As far as over the last couple years, this is definitely different than what we've seen," he said.

Bans: The following municipalities have issued burn bans:

  • Conewago Township
  • Dover Township
  • East Manchester Township
  • Lower Windsor Township
  • Shrewsbury Borough
  • Windsor Township

— Reach Christopher Dornblaser at cdornblaser@yorkdispatch.com.