Brush fire yesterday in Snyder Township

Fire crews had to battle a large and visible brush fire yesterday in Snyder Township.
The fire started around 11 a.m., according to Rick Meintel, a fire department specialist with the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
Meintel said the fire burned five or six acres of non-commercial forest land. He said there is no estimate of damage yet. Such estimates take up to a couple of weeks to determine.
Meintel said the fire took about an hour-and-a-half to control and a DCNR helicopter was used to drop water on the fire. The DCNR helicopter was used for about an hour to fight the flames.
Meintel said firefighters from Tyrone, Bald Eagle, Warriors Mark and Tipton were at the scene. A state fire crew trained to fight forest fires in northern Blair County also responded.
Meintel said he was happy about the turnout from that crew as he had some concern about turnout because of the time of the day of the fire.
He said the fire remains under investigation and may have been caused by debris catching on fire and spreading to the forest. Meintel said there have been about 20 such fires so far this year. Yesterday’s fire was the most visible and one of the biggest this year, according to Meintel.
He said his preliminary report indicated the property is owned by Herb Goss.
This time of year is considered the height of the brush and wildfire season.
Meanwhile,The Associated Press reported the cost of fighting California’s wildfires is spiraling upward, quickly topping a $1 million a day, in part because of overtime paid to firefighters, according to a report by the state’s legislative analyst.
The report released Tuesday recommends lawmakers consider renegotiating a contract with firefighters and review whether it would be cheaper to hire more firefighters instead of relying on overtime. It also suggested lawmakers consider adopting a fire-protection fee on property owners that was repealed before it took effect this year.
The state’s annual firefighting costs have varied between $400 million and $500 million for five years, but spiked to $612 million last fiscal year after devastating wildfires scorched Southern California. Spending has risen about 10 percent each year because of increasing labor costs and residential movement into uninhabited wildlands.
Labor costs account for roughly half the state’s firefighting expenses. Much of the spending growth can be traced to overtime pay and an overtime pay increase that takes effect this year, the nonpartisan office found.
Firefighters now work three 24-hour shifts each week, or 72 hours, during fire season. But under federal law, overtime begins after 53 hours, so they routinely are paid 19 hours of overtime.
Those costs will jump again in July 2006, when firefighters begin working 24-hour shifts all year instead of just during fire season.
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s administration tried to renegotiate the contract a year ago without success, because there was no incentive for the union to give up any benefits, the report noted.
Key legislators and their consultants declined to comment on the report Tuesday, saying they had not reviewed its findings.
Jim Wright, chief of fire protection for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, said no renegotiation efforts are planned, though the department is considering hiring more firefighters.
(Editor’s note: Associated Press Writer Don Thompson contributed to this article.)