DEP Commissioner Urges Wildfire Awareness

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Photo credit: Jon A. Ross

TRENTON – With dry conditions expected to persist across the state heading into the Fourth of July weekend, Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin urged residents and visitors to exercise common sense and caution to prevent wildfires.

“During dry periods such as this, our woodlands become especially vulnerable to wildfires,” Martin said. “A carelessly tossed match or cigarette, an improperly tended campfire, improperly disposed coals from a grill, and illegal use of personal fireworks can spark disaster. Be careful and be fire-wise so everyone can enjoy a safe holiday.”

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Wildfire danger is currently very high in central New Jersey, high in southern New Jersey and moderate in northern New Jersey because of persistently dry weather.

Stage 1 campfire restrictions are in effect for the central and southern regions of the state. This means ground campfires are prohibited unless they are built in a fire ring constructed of steel, stone, brick or concrete with a gravel or masonry base. Fires on mineral soil which do not endanger the forest, such as in a gravel pit, may be permitted at the discretion of the forest fire warden issuing the permit.

The New Jersey Forest Fire Service has fought two large fires – both in the Pinelands – over the past week: a lightning-sparked fire that burned nearly 900 acres in Ocean County and a 400-acre fire at Fort Dix in Burlington County.

Since the beginning of the year, wildfires have burned more than 2,500 acres across New Jersey, compared to just over 1,000 acres during the same period last year.

Each year, the New Jersey Forest Fire Service responds to some 1,600 wildfires that, on average, scorch 7,000 acres. Ninety-nine percent are caused by carelessness or arson. The Pinelands, encompassing nearly a quarter of the state, is particularly vulnerable because of the dense, fire-prone vegetation that grows in the region.

“Wildfires have the potential to shatter lives and disrupt entire communities, yet most are preventable,” Martin said.

The Forest Fire Service works to prevent wildfires year-round through public outreach and education efforts, prescribed burning operations, and maintenance of fire breaks. To reduce the risk of fires, the Forest Fire Service recommends following these guidelines:

  • Use ashtrays. Carelessly discarding cigarettes, smoking materials and matches is a violation of New Jersey law.
  • Obtain necessary permits for campfires and don’t leave them unattended. Completely douse them.
  • Keep matches and lighters away from children. Teach them about the dangers of fire.
  • Make sure firefighting equipment can pass down your driveway. People living in forested areas should maintain defensible clearings to protect their properties.
  • Personal fireworks are illegal in New Jersey. Do not use them.
  • Report suspicious activity to local authorities or the New Jersey Forest Fire Service.

For more information on wildfire safety, including current fire conditions, visit the New Jersey Forest Fire Service Web site at www.njwildfire.org .


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