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State of New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 7, 2008

Contact: Elaine Makatura (609) 292-2994
Lawrence Hajna (609) 984-1795

COMMISSIONER JACKSON LAUNCHES WILDFIRE AWARENESS WEEK
BY URGING RESIDENTS TO BE FIRE-WISE

(08/23) TRENTON - Marking the start of Wildfire Awareness Week, Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Lisa P. Jackson today urged the public to use common sense and caution to prevent wildfires.

“During spring, our woodlands are especially vulnerable to wildfires,” Commissioner Jackson said. “This is a perfect time to remind everyone that a carelessly tossed match or cigarette, an improperly tended campfire, even a poorly maintained chimney can spark disaster.”

The New Jersey Forest Fire Service promotes Wildfire Awareness Week as a way to draw public attention to the dangers of wildfires and ways to prevent them.

Wildfire danger is currently low to moderate in New Jersey because of wet weather. But woodlands can quickly dry out in spring due to a lack of thick foliage. This allows the sun and wind to turn fallen leaves, needles and branches into potential tinder.

So far this year, more than 325 wildfires have burned about 484 acres in New Jersey.

Each year, the New Jersey Forest Fire Service responds to some 1,600 wildfires that, on average, scorch 7,000 acres. Ninety-nine percent are caused by carelessness or arson.

“Wildfires have the potential to disrupt lives and affect entire communities, yet most are preventable,” Commissioner Jackson said.

The Forest Fire Service works to prevent wildfires year-round through public outreach and education efforts, prescribed burning operations, and maintenance of fire breaks.

In conjunction with the New Jersey Pinelands Commission, the Forest Fire Service recently launched a broad study using aerial surveys, computerized mapping, and fire records to help Pinelands communities defend against future blazes. In May 2007, a Pinelands wildfire claimed 24 square miles of woodlands and destroyed three homes.

To reduce the risk of fires, the Forest Fire Service recommends following these guidelines:

  • Use ashtrays. Carelessly discarding cigarettes, smoking materials and matches is a violation of New Jersey law.

  • Obtain necessary permits for campfires and don’t leave them unattended. Completely douse them.

  • Keep matches and lighters away from children. Teach them about the dangers of fire.

  • Make sure firefighting equipment can pass down your driveway. People living in forested areas should maintain defensible buffers to protect their properties.

  • Report suspicious activity to local authorities of the New Jersey Forest Fire Service.

For more information on wildfire safety, including current fire conditions, visit the New Jersey Forest Fire Service Web site at www.njwildfire.org.

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Last Updated: April 7, 2008