With spring wildfire season getting under way, the New Jersey Forest Fire Service today urged the public to exercise extra caution when outdoors.
“It is very important at this time of year to be extra mindful of steps you can take to reduce the chance of wildfires,” said State Forester Lynn Fleming. “Wildfire risks increase at this time of year because weather conditions tend to be dry and windy. At the same time, the forest canopy has not leafed out, allowing the sun and wind to dry leaf litter and debris on the forest floor that can act as tinder for larger wildfires.”
Wildfire risk is currently rated as high in southern and central New Jersey and as moderate in northern New Jersey. Risks will likely increase this week due to a forecast for increasing temperatures and continued dry conditions.
So far this year the New Jersey Forest Fire Service has responded to 230 wildfires that have burned 293 acres, compared with 461 fires that burned 1,994 acres during the same period last year.
Over the past weekend, 42 wildfires were reported across New Jersey, burning 182 acres. The largest, in an extremely remote section of Wharton State Forest in Burlington County that burned more than 150 acres over the weekend, is under investigation. The Forest Fire Service continues to work on the fire and expects the final acreage burned to be higher.
The Forest Fire Service also responded to a number of smaller brush fires in northern New Jersey today.
Ninety-nine percent of all wildfires in New Jersey are caused by human activity, usually carelessness, negligence or arson. The Forest Fire Service works to prevent wildfires year-round through public outreach and education efforts, prescribed burning operations, and maintenance of fire breaks.
Wildfire risks increase with every new structure built in or adjacent to forests. Wildfires can spread quickly in New Jersey, threatening homes, property, natural resources and human lives, yet most are preventable.
Follow these guidelines to reduce the risk of fires:
* Use ashtrays in vehicles. Discarding cigarettes, matches and smoking materials is a violation of New Jersey law.
* Obtain necessary permits for campfires. Don’t leave fires unattended. Douse them completely.
* Keep matches and lighters away from children. Teach them the dangers of fire.
* People living in the forest should maintain a defensible buffer by clearing vegetation within 30 feet of any structures. Also, make sure fire trucks can pass down your driveway.
* Report suspicious vehicles and individuals to authorities.
* Be careful when using wood stoves and fireplaces. They can emit embers that can spark fires. Also fully douse ashes with water before disposal.
For more information on wildfires and fire safety, visit www.njwildfire.org. TLS.