A quickly contained wildfire in Ocean County on Thursday morning is a reminder that New Jersey’s spring forest fire season is underway.
The small fire, estimated around five acres in size, broke out in a remote area near the Forked River Mountain in Lacey Township shortly before 10 a.m., according to the New Jersey Forest Fire Service.
An air tanker responded along with ground crews, and officials said the fire would not impact structures or traffic. Crews remained on the scene as of 11:30 a.m. Thursday.
Last week, the New Jersey Forest Fire Service urged the public to be “extra vigilant to help reduce the risk of wildfires.”
The service says that nearly all wildfires are caused by humans, either accidentally, negligently, or intentionally.
“It is extremely important that the public understand that a moment of carelessness can cause a wildfire that puts lives and homes at risk,” said State Firewarden Gregory S. McLaughlin. “Although March was rainy and snowy, conditions change rapidly. This time of year, warmer and windy weather dries out forests quickly, which creates conditions more prone to rapid growth of a wildfire, particularly in the Pinelands.”
The Pinelands region is especially vulnerable to wildfires during the spring since leaves have not fully developed on trees and bushes, allowing more sun to dry out vegetation on the forest flood that creates prime kindling when a fire develops, according to the service.
In addition, the area’s ecosystem is especially vulnerable to fire spread because of its flammable tree and shrub species, and tendency to dry quickly after rainfall due to sandy soils that allow for quick drainage.
The New Jersey Forest Fire Service says the public can help reduce the risk of wildfires by following these guidelines:
- Use ashtrays in vehicles and don’t discard cigarettes, matches and smoking materials on the ground.
- Obtain required permits for campfires from your nearest Forest Fire Service office. Don’t leave fires unattended, and douse them completely.
- Keep matches and lighters away from children. Teach your kids about fire safety.
- Protect structures from wildfire damage by creating space of at least 30 feet between homes and flammable vegetation in forested or wooded areas, and 100 feet from homes in the Pinelands region. These buffers should be free from vegetation that will burn easily, such as fallen leaves, pine needles, twigs and branches. Make sure firetrucks can access driveways.
- Report suspicious vehicles and individuals to authorities.
- Use wood stoves and fireplaces carefully, since both can emit embers that spark fires. Fully douse ashes with water before disposal.