When fire moves from wildland to "wildland urban interface" private property is in jeopardy.
Warren and Forest counties are working together to create Pennsylvania's first wildfire protection plan.
The plan was not mandated by the state or federal government. "It's more of a preventative, pro-active measure," Warren County Planning Director Dan Glotz said. "The loss of any property is what we're trying to avoid."
Officials from the two counties are working together to develop a wildfire plan that will likely be the first of its kind in the state.
The planning group will seek input and participation from the public, private industry, local fire departments, and other government agencies, Glotz said.
"This was one of the projects that was identified in the county hazards mitigation plan," he said, adding that the plan was mandated by the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency.
This part of the nation is not known for wildfires of enormous scale. However, with spans of national forest land, there are places in Warren and Forest counties that could harbor a blaze that encroaches onto developed areas.
Under the right combination of dry conditions, trees killed by insects or disease, and large areas of evergreen trees, widespread wildfire is a possibility. In April, a wildfire in the area of Dutchman Run in Mead Township burned 34 acres and approached some homes and other private property.
"We want to inventory areas that are at risk and develop some mitigation activities," Glotz said. "The presence of structures in areas where development and nature meet presents a unique danger to any unprepared resident or firefighter that has to respond to a wildland fire in the area."
"It's no longer a question of 'if' but 'when' these fires will occur," he said. "The time has come to prepare a positive response to reduce the eventuality of just such a tragedy taking place in Forest and Warren counties."
With facilitation by Wildland Fire Associates, a group of experts contracted to assist, the Community Wildfire Protection Plan should be ready in a year.
"We should be done with this next summer," Glotz said.