Elk Run, Central battle brush fire; Chief says conditions not right for burning

BELL TOWNSHIP — Windy and dry conditions have prompted a red flag warning for brush fires across the Jefferson County Area.

The National Weather Service says gusty winds, along with humidity levels as low as 20 percent, mean there is a "great potential" for wildfires in the area throughout the day, along with the possibility that any blazes that do start could easily spread.

Members of The Punxsutawney Fire Department were able to quickly extinguish a brush fire at 2:34 p.m. Friday near Mary's Place Restaurant located at Catering and Riker roads in Bell Township, thanks to help from area residents who kept the fire under control until firefighters arrived on scene.

Bryan Smith, Punxsutawney Fire Department chief, said it doesn't take long with those types of conditions for a brush fire to spread toward the woods or a structure.

"The conditions this year are completely the opposite of last year, when we experienced a mild winter, and the ground and trees greened up quickly," Smith said, adding that this year, the ground and trees are all brown, which makes for very dangerous conditions.

"It doesn't take long once the sun comes out and with a little bit of a breeze to dry the top layer up real quick," he said.

Smith said, at this time, there is not a burn ban put in place by Jefferson County.

"The National Weather Service issued the Red Flag Warnings today due to the dry conditions," Smith said.

"We were lucky today, with the brush fire in Bell Township that Central Fire Department and Elk Run Volunteer Fire Company extinguished quickly, due to the fact the residents had kept it under control with fire
extinguishers until we were able to get there with Elk Run's brush truck and Central's engine," Smith said, adding that the fire was already headed toward the woods when they arrived on scene.

According to scanner reports and Jefferson County Emergency Services, there have been numerous brush fires this past week that have been extinguished by area firefighters, including ones in Summerville and Ringgold.

Smith said at this time, it would be wise for residents to refrain from burning brush until the grass and trees begin to green up.