Rain Slows Spread Of Pike Wildfire
PORTER TOWNSHIP — Up to a quarter of an inch of rain fell overnight into Tuesday morning, diminishing the spread of one of the largest wildfires in 30 years as it continued burning in Pike County. Bill Deaton, a Dept. of Conservation & Natural Resources employee handling public information for Porter Township Tuesday, said the Cresco Complex Fire (formerly called the 16-Mile Fire), which since last Wednesday had already burned 7,185 acres, mostly in state forest land, was 40 percent contained by 8 p.m. Monday, and significantly more than that since then because of the rain.
“The only active fire is on the northeast and northwest front,” Deaton said. “The Pine Flats area is well protected but not contained.”
Previously, a few residents in Pine Flats, located in Porter, were evacuated due to the fire. Three private cabins, two state-owned cabins in the Delaware State Forest, and six outbuildings were destroyed in the blaze, Deaton said. Deaton said he searched Pennsylvania fire records back to 1979 and could not find another wildfire the size of the Cresco Complex Fire. “The fire moved so quickly because of high gypsy moth mortality in the state forest. The dead trees led to quick spread,” he said.
At its height, between 150-200 personnel were fighting the fire, aided by apparatus ranging from 12 fire engines and three bulldozers to five air tankers and two helicopters. Two reconnaissance planes were also deployed. With all the air traffic, the FAA has imposed a Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) over the Cresco Complex wildfire areas to ensure the safety within the airspace being used by aircraft deployed for the suppression effort.
Firefighting aircraft typically fly at low altitudes (sometimes lower than hobbyists fly drones), often in smoky, windy, and turbulent conditions. Safety depends on knowing what other aircraft are operating in the airspace and where they are at all times and this is compromised by the presence of unauthorized aircraft, including drones. Even a small drone can cause the crash of a firefighting aircraft, officials said.
On Sunday, District Forest Manager Timothy Dugan decided to close a portion of the Delaware State Forest to all access. That closure included the area of the Delaware State Forest bounded by Route 402, Highline Road, Pine Flats Road, and Hobday Road. Fire investigators have determined that the now contained 500-acre Bear Town fire and the Cresco Complex fire were intentionally set. The Bureau of Forestry is offering a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the individual(s) responsible for setting these fires. Anyone with confidential information can call 717-362-1472 or 570-895-4000.
Porter Township was not the only area in Pike County beset by brush fires.
Lackawaxen, Shohola Falls and Mill Rift were also hit, and a brush fire broke out behind Aliton’s in Milford last Thursday, raced up the hill and burned seven acres according to Milford Fire Chief Tony Mann... for a complete story, get this week's paper.