Casey Calls on U.S. Forest Service to Monitor Pennsylvania’s Brush Fire Outbreak

Firefighters Across the State Are Dealing With Growing Brush Fires- Up to 40 More Brush Fires This Year than Last, 100 More Acres Burned

Forestry Industry Employs Nearly 80,000 Pennsylvanians- Generates $5.5B In Economic Activity Yearly  

Local and State First Responders Doing All They Can- Casey Asks Feds to be Ready to Step Up

Washington DC- U.S. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) called on the U.S. Forest Service to stand ready to assist Pennsylvania as the state deals with growing brush fires.

Across the state, first responders have battled brush fires since the weekend yet the growing problem is straining local resources. In a letter to Tom Tidwell, Chief of the U.S. Forest Service, Senator Casey asked the agency to make all the necessary preparations to aid Pennsylvania as the fires continue.

“Our state and local first responders are doing everything they can to battle these brush fires, but with the fires ongoing the federal government has to be ready to step up and help,” Casey said. “The combination of a dry winter and a high concentration of brush fires have pushed our first responders in significant ways.  The federal agency that takes the lead in fighting wildfires needs to monitor the situation closely and be prepared to help our state. Pennsylvania’s forests contribute over $5 billion to our state’s economy every year, it’s essential to protect this job creating industry from wildfires.”

Throughout the week a spate of brush fires have hit Pennsylvania hard. Over the weekend, two fires were reported in Perry County and a third in York on Sunday. The Pennsylvania Department of  Conservation and Natural Resources estimates that the state is 30 or 40 brush fires ahead of last year’s pace, amounting to 100 more acres of land burned when compared to last year.

Brush Fires are a major problem for a state like Pennsylvania that is heavily dependent on forestry. More than 50% of Pennsylvania is forested- a total of 16.5 million acres, of which 8.9 million acres are privately owned. The industry employs nearly 80,000 Pennsylvanians and generates $5.5 billion in economic activity yearly.

In his letter Casey wrote, “In light of the number of people and properties affected by this issue, I urge you to ready your resources to be able to address this matter.

The mission of the U.S. Forest Service is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of the nation's forests and grasslands to meet the needs of present and future generations. Recreational activities on our lands contribute $14.5 billion annually to the U.S. economy. The U.S. Forest Service manages 193 million acres of public land, provides assistance to state and private landowners, and maintains the largest forestry research organization in the world.

The full text of Senator Casey’s letter can be seen below:

April 11, 2012

The Honorable Tom Tidwell

Chief

U.S. Forest Service

1400 Independence Ave., SW
Washington, D.C. 20250-1111

Dear Chief Tidwell:

I write to you today regarding the recent outbreak of wildfires in Pennsylvania.  In the past, the United States Forest Service has provided indispensable assistance when called upon to aid those fighting forest and brush fires.  I appreciate your past efforts, and applaud the continued labors of the Forest Service.  I encourage you to be aware of the situation in Pennsylvania, and ask the Forest Service to be prepared to contribute to the containment of these fires in the event Federal assistance is needed. For example, crews have been fighting fires in French Creek State Park in Berks County and on Peter’s Mountain in Dauphin County.

Most of the affected communities are equipped to handle brush fires, and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is also able to manage forest fires.  However, due to a particularly dry winter, these fires are occurring in a higher concentration earlier in the season.  While the majority of these fires have been contained, I am concerned that the large number of fires is becoming a serious concern. I request the Forest Service to be prepared should assistance be required to extinguish the fires.

In light of the number of people and properties affected by this issue, I urge you to ready your resources to be able to address this matter. Like the Forest Service has done in the past, I ask that you move expeditiously to combat the fires in conjunction with local and Commonwealth authorities should they request your aid.

Thank you for your attention to this issue and I look forward to continuing to work with you.

Sincerely,

Robert P. Casey, Jr.

United States Senator