Wildfire in Pennsylvania


PA Wildfire Statistics

Details for Pennsylvania wildfires reported to the Bureau of Forestry can be examined in data tables for each year from 1979-2015.
Statewide statistical summaries for the years 1913 to date are also available.

firefighter approaching through smoke

PA Prescribed Fire Statistics

Historical data on use of prescribed fire in PA 2010-2015


Most people believe the greatest danger of wildfire occurs during the summer. Actually, our greatest danger of wildfires is in the spring months of March, April and May, and the autumn months of October and November. In Pennsylvania lighting-caused fires are relatively rare. Ninety-eight percent of our wildfires are caused by people.

Why spring and fall months?

Certain conditions are necessary for a wildfire to occur.
ONE…An available fuel source, such as grasslands or fields.
TWO…Dry conditions, including the fuel source.
THREE...An ignition source — some way for the fire to start.

Chart of PA wildfires by monthThe first two factors occur most frequently in Pennsylvania during the spring and autumn. As the spring sun climbs higher in the sky, days become longer and warmer. The trees are bare during this time allowing the sunlight to reach the forest floor warming the ground and drying last fall’s leaves. This, coupled with the fact that the winds in the spring are often very strong and dry, leads to a tremendous amount of fuel ready to burn. During the fall, starting around October, the leaves turn color and begin to fall, accumulating in a deep fluffy layer that creates a fire hazard.

The third factor, ignition source, also occurs during these periods. One of the major causes of forest fires in Pennsylvania is debris burning. A careless person burning accumulated trash can be responsible for causing thousands of acres of valuable Pennsylvania forests to burn. These fires most frequently start in someone’s backyard and travel through the dead grass and weeds into the bordering woodlands.

Regardless of the season, conditions often prevail that allow wildfires to start. Wildfires can occur in any month, at any time of the day, destroying valuable woodlands and wildlife habitat. Homes and buildings are threatened, not to mention the direct threat to human lives.