The New Jersey Forest Fire Service announced that charges have been filed against five individuals for their roles in causing the 2019 Spring Hill wildfire that burned for a month and devastated more than 11,000 acres in the New Jersey Pinelands.
The complaint says that the five responsible individuals set a fire without written permission and failed to extinguish the fire or contact the proper authorities. The court filing seeks approximately $50,000 in restitution from the individuals.
“The Forest Fire Service’s pursuit of those responsible for this devastating wildfire was necessary because they recklessly put lives and property at risk,” Commissioner McCabe said.
In addition to announcing the charges, the Forest Fire Service took the opportunity to remind residents of the responsibility they bear and steps they can take to avoid starting a forest fire.
“Nearly all wildfires are caused by people, through accidents, carelessness, negligence and even arson,” Forest Fire Service Chief Gregory McLaughlin said. “Reducing those risks is especially critical at this time of year, when weather conditions and other factors can increase wildfire risk. The painstaking investigation of the Spring Hill wildfire over the past year highlights why human behavior is a critical factor in preventing wildfires.”
Some of the guidelines issued by the Forest Fire Service to prevent wildfires include:
- Obtain required permits for campfires for a Forest Fire Service office. Don’t leave fires unattended and be sure to douse them completely, until cold to the touch
- Don’t discard cigarettes, matches and smoking materials on the ground
- Keep matches and lighters away from children and teach youth about fire safety
- Protect structures from wildfires by creating space of at least 30 feet between homes and flammable vegetation in forested or wooded areas and leave 100 feet of space from homes in the Pinelands region. These buffers should be free from vegetation such as fallen leaves, pine needles, twigs and branches
- Use wood stoves and fireplaces carefully, since both can emit embers that spark fires. Fully douse ashes with water before disposal
- Report suspicious vehicles and individuals to authorities
For more information about wildfire safety, prevention, tips on protecting your home, current conditions, and a list of contact numbers for regional Forest Fire Service offices, visit www.njwildfire.org
To find your local Forest Fire Service office, visit www.nj.gov/dep/parksandforests/fire/contactus.html