A seasonal program that aims to mitigate forest fire risk is now underway throughout New Jersey.
According to the New Jersey State Forest Fire Service, the prescribed burning program reduces wildfire risks by burning buildup of undergrowth, fallen trees and branches, leaves and other debris on forest floors.
“The state’s prescribed burning program, conducted only under exacting conditions and by highly trained personnel, is an important management tool in protecting lives and property, while providing an important additional benefit of keeping our wildlands ecologically healthy,” said Richard Boornazian, New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s Assistant Commissioner for Natural and Historic Resources, in a state release.
Prescribed fires are generally conducted during the mid to late winter months to minimize the amount of smoke produced, and when weather conditions tend to be safer for controlled fires, according to the DEP.
“Firefighter and public safety are our top priorities as we implement these burns,” says State Firewarden Bill Edwards. “Roads in areas where burns are taking place are clearly marked. Motorists are advised to observe the posted precautions and slow down.”
Depending on weather conditions this season, the state Forest Fire Service, part of the DEP’s Division of Parks and Forestry, expects to burn between 10,000 and 20,000 acres of forests and grasslands this season.
Unlike wildfires, prescribed burns do reach the forest canopy or cause significant loss of mature trees, the state release says.
With sandy soil that drains rapidly, the New Jersey Pinelands region is highly susceptible to wildfires.
When in doubt about the source of the smoke or fire, the DEP advises calling 9-1-1 or 877-WARN-DEP (877-927-6337).
Follow the New Jersey Forests Facebook page for daily prescribed burn schedules.