Thursday’s high 68; Overnight low, 38





As drought conditions continue, officials warn of increased risk for wildfires…Rep. Owlett’s bill for religious freedom during emergency moves to state senate….Covoid cases remain steady in BFB service area….Ridgway based state police investigating several thefts at St. Marys Walmart last weekend…St. Marys man arrested for DUI…….

 With hunting and other outdoors activities increasing at a time when woodlands and brush can become tinder dry in just a few days, officials are urging all residents to guard against increased wildfire dangers in Pennsylvania’s 17 million acres of forestlands. State officials noted a sustained dry period over much of the state comes at a time when wildfire dangers normally are high, and critical conditions can develop almost overnight in many forested areas of Pennsylvania. Debris burning is leading cause of wildfires throughout the state and more than 95 percent of Pennsylvania wildfires are caused by people’

The wildfire warning comes amid sparse rainfall and drying conditions, and as drought advisories are widening in Pennsylvania.

DCNR is responsible for administering a grant program paid through federal grants from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service. This program has awarded more than $14.5 million since it began in 1982. In 2019, more than $617,800 was awarded to 133 volunteer fire companies. Both Dunn and Trego encourage eligible departments to learn more about this important program for future grant opportunities.

With several deer and small-game hunting seasons opening in the coming weeks, hunters and other woodlands visitors are urged to be especially careful with smoking and fires amid dry vegetation.

Property owners should always consider the weather and conditions when burning outdoors. If it’s windy or dry, burning should be postponed until conditions change. A hose, rake, and shovel should be handy when burning outdoors, and any burnable materials cleared within 10 feet of a fire.

The Bureau of Forestry is working through state agencies and local fire companies to educate Pennsylvania citizens on procedures to make their homes in forest environments safer from wildfires.

Information can be obtained from the Bureau of Forestry, county Emergency Management Office, or the Office of the State Fire Commissioner.


Details on wildfire prevention can be obtained at local forest districts and the Bureau of Forestry also maintains information on county burn bans in effect.

Rep. Clint Owlett’s (R-Tioga/Bradford/Potter) bill that would strengthen the Religious Freedom Protection Act has passed the House by a vote of 149-53. The bill would ensure the religious freedoms of Pennsylvanians of all faiths are protected during times of emergency declarations.

“Yes, we are facing an unprecedented pandemic, and we must take steps to protect people’s health and safety. But what about their spiritual health? What about their mental health?” Owlett asked. “Our houses of worship and faith have played a key role in helping our communities through the most challenging of situations. They are literally the hospitals for our spiritual and mental health.”

Owlett praised the state’s religious institutions for making modifications, such as virtual services, to continue to meet the needs of their members in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. But he believes the changes should not have come from fear or questioning if exercising their constitutional right was “okay” with the governor.

“Here in the Commonwealth it’s always been perfectly ‘okay’ to worship as you see fit. It does not need to be okayed by the governor or secretary of Health, regardless of what emergency declaration may be in place,” he said. “Rather than issuing orders, I’m sure our church leaders would welcome reliable data to help them make the best decisions for how to assemble – or not assemble – their congregations in times of emergency.”

House Bill 2530 would amend the 2002 Religious Freedom Protection Act to state that no order issued during an emergency, or control measure issued under the Disease Prevention and Control Law, may impact the free exercise of religion in the Commonwealth.

“Our right to religious freedom does not go away in this disaster declaration, or any future declaration,” Owlett said. “With this language added to our Religious Freedom Protection Act, this administration, or any future administration that gets the idea to try and restrict our religious freedoms, will certainly think twice.”

The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health today confirmed as of 12:00 a.m., September 17, that there were 933 additional positive cases of COVID-19, bringing the statewide total to 147,923. All 67 counties in Pennsylvania have cases of COVID-19.


Allegheny County near Pittsburgh is reporting an increase of 83 cases, Centre, Near Penn State is reporting an increase of 88, Philadelphia is reporting an increase of 83 cases, and York is reporting an increase of 24 cases.

The number of tests administered within the last 7 days between September 10 and September 16 is 176,997 with 5,700 positive cases. There were 24,529 test results reported to the department through 10 p.m., September 16. These results represent the total number of tests administered.

There are 7,913 total deaths attributed to COVID-19, an increase of 10 new deaths reported. County-specific information and a statewide map are available on the COVID-19 Data Dashboard.

Mask-wearing is required in all Pennsylvania  businesses and whenever leaving home. Consistent mask-wearing is critical to preventing the spread of COVID-19 according to health experts.

There are 1,721,275 patients who have tested negative to date. Most of the patients hospitalized are ages 65 or olderand most of the deaths(67%)  have occurred in patients 65 or older.

In nursing and personal care homes, there are 22,095 resident cases of COVID-19, and 4,825 cases among employees, for a total of 26,920 at 957 distinct facilities in 61 counties including Elk and McKean. Out of the total deaths, 5,327 have occurred in residents from nursing or personal care facilities.

Approximately 10,251 of the total cases are among health care workers.

Ridgway based  police report they are continuing to investigate several thefts that occurred at the St. Mary’s Walmart last weekend. The case remains open pending further investigation.

And troopers at Ridgeway have arrested a 51 year old St. Mary’s man for DUI after stopping him on Larch Road at Vine Road in the  city of St. Mary’s Saturday morning, just a few minutes after 1am. The driver of a 2013 Chevrolet Equinox was pulled over for an equipment violation and allegedly found to have been drinking. Charges have been filed against the suspect whose name was not released in District Court.