Prescribed Burn Season Underway to Help Reduce Wildfire Risk

Feb 27, 2019
File Photo by: Ryan Morrill

The N.J. Forest Fire Service has begun controlled burns to reduce undergrowth and other forest floor materials that have the potential to fuel wildfires, the state Department of Environmental Protection announced in a recent press release. Forest Fire Service personnel follow a plan to control impacts during the burns, but nearby residents and visitors to the area should expect to see large plumes of smoke, and may be temporarily affected by such.

Motorists are reminded to use caution when approaching areas where prescribed burns are taking place by observing posted reduced speed limits and being alert to the presence of trucks and personnel.

“Wildfires can have the greatest impact in areas where people live in or near forests, grasslands and other natural areas,” the DEP noted. “The sprawling Pinelands region in southern New Jersey is especially prone to wildfires because its ecosystem has adapted to depend on periodic wildfires for releasing of seeds for reproduction. Controlling the buildup of fuel in this region helps keep the forest healthy.”

“Since 1906, the Forest Fire Service has protected property, lives and infrastructure by creating defensible space and strategic fire breaks near developed areas,” said Greg McLaughlin, chief of the N.J. Forest Fire Service. “These prescribed burns help prevent wildfires; reduce the intensity of these fires; and provide a foundation for safer, more effective fire suppression and protection operations.”

Ray Bukowski, assistant commissioner for natural and historic resources, added, “A safe and effective method of burning away materials that can fuel wildfires, prescribed burns can also help keep forest ecosystems healthy by improving wildlife habitats, managing competing species of plants and trees, controlling insects and disease, and recycling important nutrients into the soil.”

Last summer, Gov. Phil Murphy signed into law the Prescribed Burn Act, which preserved landowners’ rights to the burns, strengthened protections for practitioners and expanded acceptable uses of prescribed fire, from reducing traditional hazard fuels to recognizing the benefits of habitat management, as well as other forestry and ecological needs.

Prescribed burns will continue during appropriate weather conditions. As the DEP explained, “The burns are generally conducted during late winter months to reduce the amount of smoke produced and because weather conditions tend to be more predictable for safer controlled fires.”

Visit nj.gov/dep/parksandforests/fire/contactus.html to learn more about the prescribed burns program and where burns are expected to be conducted.

When in doubt about the source of smoke, call 911 or 1-877-WARN-DEP (1-877-927-6337). —J.K.-H.

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