Fire

Burning The Forest To Protect One Of Its Most Threatened Visitors

May 15, 2018
Reid Frazier / 90.5 WESA

On a ridge at the top of the Allegheny Mountains, Gage Meyer, a supervisor for the Pennsylvania Game Commission, walked around a forest with a metal tank filled with a mix of diesel and gasoline.

“It’s not too potent but it does the job,” he said. “It’ll happen fast, especially on a day like today.”

It was sunny and dry on this spring morning. Meyer pulled out a lighter and lit a pile of leaves, damp with a mix of diesel and gasoline. Then he sprayed fuel in a straight line away from the fire from a metal can with a nozzle on it. The forest floor shot up in flames.

Darryl Matevish / AP

Artificial intelligence developed by Carnegie Mellon University can pinpoint which commercial buildings are most likely to catch fire.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

Authorities say a small fire believed to be due to contraband prompted a partial evacuation at the Allegheny County Jail and sent a guard to a hospital.

Allegheny County officials said the blaze at the Downtown jail broke out at about 3:20 p.m. Wednesday within a cell and is "believed to have been started by contraband in that cell."

All 80 inmates of the pod were evacuated to another area of the jail and guards had the fire out before Pittsburgh firefighters arrived.

Allegheny County Jail / AP

Prosecutors plan to seek the death penalty if a man is convicted of first-degree murder in a Pittsburgh fire that killed two women and a 4-year-old child last year.

Forty-one-year-old Martell Smith is charged with homicide and arson in the deaths of 58-year-old Sandra Douglas, 21-year-old Shamira Staten and her daughter Chy'enne Manning.

Authorities allege that Smith set the fire Dec. 20 after a bar fight with a relative of theirs. Police allege that he said "Yep, I did it" as he watched the house burn.

At least 20 people have been injured after a massive fire broke out at a senior assisted-living complex near Philadelphia late Thursday, forcing residents to evacuate the building into a 40-degree chill.

WPXI / via AP

Most of approximately 1,000 displaced Bedford County residents were allowed to return to their homes this weekend after a train derailed last week and caught fire.

Tests on air quality led the railroad company CSX, an incident management team and environmental specialists to decide that it was safe to reduce the evacuation zone to a limited area immediately surrounding the derailment site in Hyndman, about 100 miles southeast of Pittsburgh, a CSX spokesman said Saturday.

Alex Nixon / 90.5 WESA

The Seneca Rocks area of West Virginia's Monongahela National Forest re-opened Friday morning after a nearly week-long, 5-acre fire tore through the western base of its north peak.

Officials said climbers should use caution when re-entering the area because of unstable footing along access routes and possible changes to climbing routes. The feature's hiking trail and observation platform were both impacted by the fire, but have been cleared of immediate hazards, officials said.

Hershey Fire Department / Twitter

An Independence Day fireworks show at one of Pennsylvania's most popular amusement parks ended early after the show sparked a brush fire on a hillside near the fireworks launch area.

The Hershey Fire Department tweeted a picture of the blaze Tuesday night.

Fire officials say the fire started about 15 minutes into the display at Hersheypark. Although the fire was quickly brought under control, the rest of the display was canceled.

Nobody was hurt.

whitneybee / Flickr

Authorities say more than 100,000 chickens died in a fire that destroyed a barn at a commercial egg farm in Tyrone Township.

The blaze at Hillandale Farms was reported around 5:45 a.m. Saturday. Tyrone is about 29 miles southwest of Harrisburg.

A Heidlersburg Fire Company captain said flames were visible above the roof of the 600-foot barn by the time fire crews arrived.

Firefighters concentrated on keeping the blaze from spreading to other buildings. Three first responders were treated at the scene, two for dehydration and one for a laceration.

Michael Virtanen / AP

Law enforcement responded to a fire this weekend at one of West Virginia’s most recognizable landmarks.

Officials said guests at the Seneca Rocks area of the Monongahela National Forest set off fireworks that sparked a blaze around the Lower Slabs climbing area at around 10 p.m. Saturday. The fire and its plume were still visible through the wee hours Monday morning.

Massive and intimidating, the craggy, knife-edge landscape of Seneca Rocks draws serious rock climbers from southwestern Pennsylvania, including Pittsburgh, to its fiercely vertical routes.

Sarah Kovash / 90.5 WESA

A year after seven firefighters were forced to bail out of a second-story window during a house fire in Wilkinsburg, Chief Darryl Jones said he’s reviewing recommendations for how to prevent a similar situation.

Mark Nootbaar / 90.5 WESA

A Pittsburgh bridge is closing over the weekend to repair damage caused by a construction fire last year.

Traffic on the Liberty Bridge will be closed in both directions from 3 p.m. Saturday to 11 a.m. Sunday.

The northbound side of the Liberty Tunnel will also be closed. All traffic will be detoured.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports crews will also repair an expansion joint that crosses the full width of the bridge.

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

 

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation has assessed a contractor more than $3 million in damages because a major Pittsburgh bridge was wholly or partially shut down for 24 days after a construction fire.

PennDOT says a spark from a blowtorch ignited plastic piping and a construction tarp on the Liberty Bridge on Sept. 2.

Contractor Joseph B. Fay Co. says it hopes to negotiate a lower amount of "liquidated damages" that accounts for the "hard work" the company did to limit the bridge closure and put the project back on schedule.

Joseph B. Fay Co.

Nearly 55,000 commuters must continue to find detours around the closed Liberty Bridge, after PennDOT officials announced they would delay its re-opening indefinitely. The agency said on the recommendation of engineering experts, additional safety measures will be included in the construction project.

Margaret J. Krauss / 90.5 WESA

Smoke enveloped the Liberty Bridge this afternoon after sparks fell onto plastic piping below and caught fire. Workers were torching beams to replace the bridge deck, says Scott Fennell, a laborer with Joseph B. Fay Company. There were no injuries, but Fennell said the incident would cost them time.

The final phase of the bridge deck replacement began August 29 as part of the $80.8 million Liberty Bridge Rehabilitation Project.

A 40-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of setting the Clayton fire in Northern California, which officials say has burned more than 4,000 acres and destroyed more than 175 homes and businesses in the past few days.

Damin Anthony Pashilk of Clearlake, Calif., is being held on suspicion of a total of 17 counts of arson in Lake County, Calif., over the past year. Lake County is a largely rural area of wineries and vacation homes about 120 miles north of San Francisco.

Five years of drought, 100-plus temperatures and gusting winds: Firefighters in Southern California are facing dangerous conditions as they battle two day-old fires east of Los Angeles.

And they're not alone. Wildfires are raging in several Western states as a heat wave grips the region.

The Reservoir Fire and the Fish Fire in Los Angeles County, both of which started Monday, have burned thousands of acres each. More than 750 homes have been evacuated, the LA County Fire Department says.

Five buildings burned as part of an early Friday apartment fire that spread to neighboring structures in the business district of a poorer suburb of Pittsburgh.

There were no immediate reports of injuries. Two residents rescued from a second-story window of the apartment building in Homestead were taken to a hospital for evaluation, but it wasn't clear if they were injured, said Alvin Henderson, chief of emergency services for Allegheny County.