Fires are being deliberately set all over NJ, but don’t worry
The New Jersey Forest Fire Service will be hard at work this week, deliberately setting wooded areas on fire all over the Garden State.
That might sound strange, but Greg McLaughlin, the state firewarden and chief of the Forest Fire Service, said by utilizing prescribed burning they’re able to lessen the risk of a wildfire burning out of control later this year.
He said through careful mapping the Forest Fire Service is able to locate areas that have an accumulation of significant pine needles, leaves and shrubs that could either be a place where a fire could start or spread.
“Then we’ll try to treat these areas with fire, through our prescribed burning, also known as control burning, to reduce those fuels,” he said.
He explained reducing the amount of material that can feed a fast-moving fire wildfire will make it easier to contain and control when the spring wildfire season begins in about six weeks.
McLaughlin said his team will be doing hundreds of prescribed burns this month and next, covering 20,000 to 25, 000 acres of forest.
Conditions and safety for prescribed burns
He said prescribed burning can only be done when it’s not too windy or warm, and humidity levels can’t drop too low, to make sure these fires don’t suddenly flare out of control.
“We typically will light fires in a particular project strategically, so that we know how the fire is behaving, and it’s going to be predictable, we do it slowly in a controlled manner,” he said.
Fire suppression resources are always on hand just in case there’s a problem.
“We monitor and check the area even after the project and the burn has been completed, and sometimes we’ll even bring in aircraft to help guide our resources on the ground," he said.
Prescribed burns are good for the forest because they recycle nutrients from the burned leaves and pine needles.
"We also see that in some cases some tree species are dependent on fire for their cones to open and release seeds,” he said.
Some studies indicate prescribed burns help to minimize tick populations.
Prescribed burn or a wildfire?
He said to help keep the public informed about prescribed burns the Forest Fire Service works with local and county offices of emergency management to help publicize their plans, “and this year for the first time we’re launching a prescribed burning operations console at njwildfire.org.”
He said if someone has questions about the source of smoke or whether a fire is part of a prescribed burning operation, they can call 1-877-WARN-DEP.
To view videos on the prescribed burn process, you can visit this website.
You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com.
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