Forest fire wardens with the Weiser Forest District came together on Wednesday, June 3, 2015 at the Locust Valley Fire Control Station in Rush Township to celebrate the 100-year anniversary of Pennsylvania Forest Fire Warden (PFFW) organization. The station is located in the Weiser Forest District.
In addition to recognizing the PFFW’s 100 years, officials announced the creation of a memorial tree garden on the grounds of the fire station in honor and memory of past wardens.
PRESS RELEASE – (from Randy White, past Chief Forest Fire Warden) – The job of protection the 17 million acres of Pennsylvania woodland is, of course, a tremendous one. To accomplish it successfully requires a large and efficient organization of well trained, competent personnel dedicated to the preservation and protection of a great natural resource. The Forest Fire Protection Law, Act of June 3, 1915 formally established the Pennsylvania Forest Fire Warden organization for the protection of forests on all lands in the commonwealth. This protection organization is under the direction of the Chief Forest Fire Warden who heads up the Division of Forest Fire Protection in the Bureau of Forestry, Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR).
Efforts to suppress wildfires in the early 1900s were a daunting task for the newly established forest fire warden organization. In 1913, the average fire in Pennsylvania burned 412 acres and consumed a total of 386,267 acres. Over 115 fire towers were built by 1925 and over 4,000 fire wardens and their crews were trained in suppression tactics to curtail these ravaging forest fires. By 1925, the average fire burnt only 49 acres and by 1945 only 62,000 acres burned annually. In 1960 the Bureau of Forestry began using aircraft to assist wardens and their crews controlling large fires across the state. One hundred years later, Pennsylvania averages 650 forest fires a year burning an average of 4,050 acres.
Ninety-eight percent of forest fires in Pennsylvania are caused by humans, so fire prevention became a big role in the fire warden’s job to reduce the damage caused by wildfires. The Wardens Helping in Prevention (WHIP) program was started in 1990 to support and recognize wardens for their prevention efforts. In 2014, the WHIP program was awarded the Bronze Smokey Bear award by the United States Forest Service for these efforts.
Many things have changed over the last 100year switch the improvements in transportation, communications, training, and organization, but the job of suppressing forest fires remains hazardous, dirty, and exhausting, required dedicated individuals. These men and women donate their time and energy to protect our natural resources for the benefit of all Pennsylvanians and deserve high praise from all who benefit from their efforts.
Governor Tom Wolf has proclaimed 2015 the Year of the Pennsylvania Forest Fire Warden and June 3, 2015 as Pennsylvania Forest Fire Warden Day. All forest districts will be celebrating their 100th anniversary at their annual forest fire warden training. On June 20, 2015 the Bureau of Forestry will celebrate at Hyner Run State Park with a picnic and guest speakers. For additional information and to find out how you can become one of us, visit the Bureau’s website at http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/forestry. And if you’d like additional information about the history of forest fire fighting and prevention, pay a visit to Pennsylvania’s Forest Fire Museum open seasonally at Caledonia State Park.
For more information about forest fire wardens, visit http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/forestry/wildlandfire/wardens/index.htm.
In addition, to celebrating 100-years, Weiser Forest District members celebrated 70 years of Smokey Bear during the program.
TamaquaArea.com video of program held at Locust Valley Fire Control Station:
TamaquaArea.com photos of program held at Locust Valley Fire Control Station:
(Click HERE to view these photos on Facebook.)