Philipsburg

Moshannon forest fire escapes perimeter, lights up night sky

A map provided by the Department of Forestry shows the original prescribed burn area and contingency area for a burn on Monday. The burn became out of control, but was contained within the contingency area.
A map provided by the Department of Forestry shows the original prescribed burn area and contingency area for a burn on Monday. The burn became out of control, but was contained within the contingency area.

If you looked toward the Moshannon State Forest on Monday night, you may have noticed an orange-ish glow.

That was hours after a planned fire got out of hand, keeping crews on duty throughout the night.

State forest personnel, the Pennsylvania Game Commission and other groups had organized a 345-acre prescribed fire north of state Route 504’s intersection with Governor’s Road in Rush and Union Townships.

It was a plan that brought in people from across Pennsylvania, as well as pulling in more from other states. They took care to make the burn as safe as possible, not even risking on-the-ground personnel to light the thick growths of scrub oak covering the area.

Instead, a helicopter was used to spark the blaze from the air around 11 a.m.

It was all carefully organized, until the fire decided not to cooperate.

Assistant District Forester Wayne Wynick said Tuesday that he couldn’t confirm how many acres were burned yet, but did say the fire never posed a threat.

“Even where it escaped the perimeter, it remained in the control zone,” he said. “It made for a hectic couple of minutes until it got under control.”

The helicopter that ignited the fire then went back to change jobs, switching out for a water bucket for firefighting.

“The guys worked through the night to keep everything contained,” Wynick said.

Weather is expected to help keep things from rekindling Tuesday.

“There is rain in Clearfield County expected over the area. That should put it to rest,” Wynick said. “It’s not likely we will see a lot of other action there.”

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