DEP COMMISSIONER MARKS WILDFIRE AWARENESS WEEK
BY URGING RESIDENTS TO BOLSTER DEFENSIBLE ZONES
(08/24) TRENTON - During a Wildfire Awareness Week event in Stafford Township today, Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Lisa P. Jackson announced an initiative that urges those who live in wooded areas of the state to establish 100-foot defensible zones around their properties.
“The massive wildfires that swept through the Pinelands last year, destroying three homes and threatening thousands more, demonstrated the importance of having as much defensible space around structures as possible,” Commissioner Jackson said during the event at the Ocean Acres Elementary School and Community Center. “Providing this extra buffer markedly increases the chances of saving your home.”
A defensible zone is the minimum recommended fuel break property owners should maintain through the removal or thinning of trees, brush, ground cover and dead plant material as well as proper maintenance of landscaping.
This buffer is especially important in the Pinelands, a largely rural region that encompasses more than 20 percent of New Jersey and consists of a highly flammable mix of pitch pines and scrub oaks. However, the strategy can be applied in all parts of the state, Commissioner Jackson said.
Property owners can protect their homes by taking the following steps:
- Roofs and structures should be constructed of fire-resistant materials or should be treated with fire retardant materials approved by the Underwriters Laboratories.
- Gutters and roofs should be cleaned of leaves and needles. Avoid landscaping with plants such as laurel and rhododendron that ignite easily. Remove dead plant litter on the ground and dead tree limbs near or hanging over structures.
- Inspect chimneys and flues and keep them free of soot to reduce the threat of sparks. Place heavy wire screens with openings no greater than a half-inch over fireplaces. Remove all tree limbs within 10 feet of a chimney.
- Have firefighting equipment on hand, including a garden hose that is at least 100 feet long, has a spray nozzle, and is attached to an outdoor spigot; rakes, shovels, buckets and an extension ladder.
- Stack firewood at least 30 feet from buildings.
For more information on wildfires on the defensible space initiative, go to www.njwildfire.org