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Wildfire danger is high

Fire danger high again today, feds warn.

For the second time in three days the National Weather Service has posted "red flag" alerts throughout the region warning that conditions are just right for wildfires Thursday afternoon.

As we observed, April is by far the busiest month for wildfires, and this season evidently is off to a roaring start on both sides of the river.

The acreage burned so far in Jersey is triple what it was this time last year, and in Pennsylvania this has been one of the busier Aprils in the period of record.

"These volunteer fire companies are running ragged," said Terry Brady, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Department of Natural Resources.

A massive fire continues to burn in a remote region of Pike and Monroe Counties in a forest area that gained national attention in the fall of 2014 during the manhunt for Eric Frein, sought for the ambush killing of a state trooper.

Brady said it was on the largest he's seen since he joined the department in 1999.

The harvest of fires likely has something to do with what didn't happen during the winter, Brady said.

Outside of the January blizzard, snowfall generally was scarce, and so was the snowpack. Without the snowpack, the ground and the autumn detritus dried out quicker than usual.

April is particularly favorable for fires because tree canopies have not yet ripened, allowing the strengthening sun to bake surfaces.

"The winter that was a non-winter is turning into a little bugaboo," Brady said.

So far this year over 3,000 acres have burned in Pennsylvania, he said, most of them in the last week. Over 1,100 have gone in flames in Jersey, about triple the 2015 acreage for the comparable period.

Conditions Thursday afternoon will be ideal for fires, with stiff winds and humidities falling into the bone-dry 20s, the weather service says.

Although Pennsylvania bans camp fires in March, April, and May, most wildfires are started by humans, often from burning trash.

Brady said anyone caught starting could be held liable for damages, along with any firefighting-related fees. Yes, he said, those helicopter runs are expensive.

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