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741 Acres Burn in French Creek State Park
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By WFMZ Channel 69
April 10, 2012

UNION TWP., Pa. -

A massive forest fire has charred hundreds of acres and forced families from their homes, but firefighters said they have the upper hand.

The fire started in Union Twp., Berks Co. Monday afternoon and crossed over the Berks line into Chester County.

Two firefighters suffered minor injuries in their efforts to put out the fire, which has burned about 500 acres, said officials.

The fire is 90% to 95% contained. The ground is scorched and roads are still closed. At its peak, flames were 30 feet high, with some 300 firefighters on the scene, said officials.

"All those limbs laying down on the ground contributed to the fuel load, which made higher bursts of fire," said Robert Erb, the Union Township fire marshal.

On Tuesday afternoon, smoke still hovered inside the woods of the French Creek State Park.

Firefighters were standing guard roughly 200 yards from homes. Other crews were more than a mile deep, trying to get the upper hand on the flames.

"They're drawing more hand lines where you're taking the leaves off the forest floor so you're down to dirt and the fire won't burn across," said Frassetta.

Helicopters took off Tuesday morning and dipped 100 gallon buckets into Hopewell Lake. Planes also flew overhead.

With calmer winds, aerial drops were made over hot spots in the forest. The wind that fueled the fire on Monday, blew in the same direction on Tuesday, and crews crossed their fingers it would not change.

"If it changes direction the fire can get more fuel and head in another direction," said Frassetta.

Erb discovered the fire Monday, and believed it was caused by a downed power line. That will not be confirmed until an investigation is done, which will happen after the fire is completely extinguished. Officials said that could take several days.

An initial fear Monday was that the fire would spread toward the nearby International Fireworks plant, but officials told 69 News on Tuesday that the plant was no longer in danger.

A Red Cross shelter set up in Birdsboro on Monday closed Tuesday morning, but it could easily be reopened if needed, officials said.

http://www.wfmz.com/news/news-regional-berks/Officials-Forest-fire-90-95-contained-fireworks-factory-in-clear/-/121418/10397242/-/qik312/-/index.html

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Pa Forest Fire Wardens Assoc. Hopewell Fire Press Release #2

Hopewell Fire
District 17, April 11, 2012
Press Release #2

Fire Crews were out in force again this morning, working on containing the Hopewell Fire which began around noontime on April 9, 2012. Approximately 50 firefighters will be working on improving containment lines around the fire, which has been determined to be 540 acres in size. Crews will be widening, as well as constructing containment lines, to a width of 8-10 feet, removing all burnable materials from that line. Additionally, crews will be felling dead trees which are near the control lines. The bulldozer line in the southeast corner of the fire area will also be further improved.

Overnight, crews contained one small breakout, and continued to monitor fire conditions around the entire fire line. The breakout occurred in the Southeast corner of the fire, but was quickly contained. Residents along St Peters Road and Sycamore Road did see smoke, but were not in any imminent danger. No residents

Temperatures are forecast to be in the 50's, with 7-10 mph winds in the fire area. Relative Humidity is forecast to be in the lower 30 % range. There are no Red Flag Warnings issued for today. One of the major factors affecting control of this fire has been weather conditions. Wildfires exhibit extreme erratic behavior when you have warm temperatures, high winds, and low relative humidity. The forest fuels on the ground are very dry, and with low relative humidity, the fuels quickly dry out even more.

Area residents are reminded to be especially careful with open flames during this time. Whether people burn debris, utilize equipment such as chainsaws, leaf blowers, ATV's, or dirt bikes, have campfires, or even smoke in the forest environment, that open flame or spark could result in a wildfire.

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Pa Forest Fire Wardens Assoc. Hopewell Fire Press Release #3

Hopewell Fire
District 17, April 12, 2012

After 3 days of wildfire control efforts, crews are still contending with completely controlling the Hopewell Fire. Crews working on making a secure control line yesterday were faced with embers igniting fuels outside the containment lines. These embers originated from dead trees just outside the control line. Flying embers, in many cases, have lodged in the dead tree tops hours before becoming visible to fire crew personnel. As a result of the breakouts, the fire has now grown to 619 acres. Fire Crews worked throughout the night patrolling the control line in the area of St Peters Road.

More than 60 Wildland Fire Fighters began their workday at 7:00 AM this morning. Their goal is to make a secure control line in the southeast corner of the fire. They will be laying fire hose line along the southeast corner of the fire to provide more water supply to deal with possible breakouts. Crews will also continue felling dead trees adjacent to the control line so embers cannot lodge in them to start further breakouts. They will also burn out fuels between the control line and the fire. The hose lay will supply water to assist with this operation.

Weather conditions are more favorable, as the winds have died down some. Relative humidity has remained around 30%, and the forest fuels are still dry. Weather predictions for the fire location for today are for temperatures in the high 50's, with Relative Humidity of 28% and wind speeds around 17 mph. These conditions will challenge the crews as they conduct their operations for today.

Limited precipitation fell on the fire yesterday, but made little impact on fire conditions. With the low relative humidity today, that precipitation has evaporated. The forest fuel moisture percentages still remain near 10% moisture content.

Again, we remind area residents to be extra cautious with open flame near any woodlands. Union Township, Berks County has initiated a ban on open burning effective immediately. The Hopewell Fire is located in both Union Township, Berks County, and Warwick Township, Chester County.

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Hopewell Fire Update 4-13-2012

Hopewell Fire
District 17
April 13, 2012

Wildland Fire Crews made significant progress yesterday and last night in constructing secure containment lines on the Hopewell Fire. Crews yesterday were able to lay over 4000 feet of 1 ½ inch water hose line along the containment line in the area of St Peters Road. These hose lines also had smaller side laterals branching off from it every 200 feet to supply water to hand crews conducting the burn out operations. Once the burn out operations were completed, crews returned to mop up, an activity that ensures all hot spots burning near the control line are extinguished. The smoke plume from these operations was visible to many residents, which prompted calls to local 911 call centers.

Crews today will continue mop up operations in this area. These crews are comprised of Volunteer Fire Crews from the area as well as Bureau of Forestry Personnel from Williamsport, Clarion, and Clearfield. They are also patrolling the other parts of the control line. Presently, there is more than 6 miles of fire perimeter.

Of particular note is the cooperation of the residents along St Peters Road. They are treating the fire crews to extra snacks and goodies as they go in and out of the woods to the fire line. Signs expressing their thanks are also posted along St Peters Road.

Weather conditions for today are not as favorable as they have been in the past couple of days. Temperatures of 66 degrees, wind speeds of 18 mph, and a relative humidity of 19 percent are expected at the fire location. Erratic fire behavior in the fire area is expected.

Union Twp, Berks County and Warwick Twp, Chester County, now have open burn bans in effect. Residents of these municipalities are reminded that no open burning is permitted. There has been significant interest from the public as to wanting to see the fire area. The public is advised to keep away from the area. It is an extremely dangerous situation with many burnt falling dead trees. Hiking trails through French Creek State Park and Hopewell Furnace Historic Site east of Pa 345 (Shed Road) are closed. Persons trespassing in these areas will be cited. The St Peters Road and Hopewell road are restricted to access only by residents and fire control personnel.


Photos were taken from local news media outlets, PA DCNR IMT, Forest Fire Wardens, Crew and Firefighters on scene.

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