Dry Conditions Lead to High Risk of Wildfires in Region

Date: 
03/30/2012
Source: 
NJ DEP

Caution Urged in the Woods

New Jersey Dept. of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin this week urged the public to exercise caution as wildfire dangers increase due to dry and windy conditions.

Fire danger is currently rated as high throughout much of our region, meaning wildfires, once started, can spread rapidly.

"Conditions have been dry coming out of the winter and into early spring," Commissioner Martin said. "A carelessly tossed match or cigarette, an improperly tended campfire, even a poorly maintained chimney can spark disaster."

The New Jersey Forest Fire Service has responded to 315 wildfires that have burned 254 acres so far this year, compared with 167 fires that burned 176 acres during the same period last year. In February, fire fighters controlled a blaze on Anthony’s Nose in the Hudson Highlands.

"We've been experiencing a series of weak cold fronts that bring little precipitation but cause higher winds and lower humidity that can dry out forest," said New Jersey Forest Fire Service Acting Chief Michael Drake. "As a result, the Forest Fire Service is stepping up fire patrols, manning of fire observation towers, and other response capabilities."

Fire danger is exacerbated by the fact that the forest canopy has not leafed out, allowing the sun and wind to dry the forest floor.

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.

The New Jersey Forest Fire Service recommends 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. Arson is a major cause of forest fires in New Jersey.

For more information on wildfires and fire safety, visit www.njwildfire.org