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NJ DEPT. OF ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION NEWS RELEASE
RELEASE: 6/12/01
01/70
CONTACT: Sharon A. Southard or Amy Collings
(609) 984-1795 or 609-292-2994

DEP COMMISSIONER SHINN'S STATEMENT ON 1,600 ACRE WARREN GROVE FIRE

Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Shinn today announced that New Jersey Forest Fire Service will continue to patrol the area in Warren Grove, Burlington County where a 1,600 acre wildfire was ignited on Sunday, June 10. Shinn says the patrols are necessary due to continued dry and windy conditions and smoldering turf conditions.

Additionally, Shinn stated that the New Jersey Department of Military Affairs, New Jersey Forest Fire Service, and the Ocean County Prosecutor 's Office determined that the wildfire was caused by a 25 pound Bomb Dummy Unit (BDU) dropped by a New Jersey Air National Guard aircraft. The BDU fell outside of the normal area used for air to ground operations, into an area not cleared of brush.

Shinn said that he has been informed that the state will be reimbursed for Forest Fire Service suppression costs by the New Jersey Department of Military Affairs. The cause of the errant drop is under investigation by the New Jersey Air National Guard.

"The Warren Grove Target Range is used by all military services for practice bombing on a daily basis, and adjustments in operation are made during periods of high fire danger," said Shinn. "Unfortunately, sometimes mechanical failures in the aircraft can cause the dummy bombs to go astray, and this likely is the cause of the bomb going off of the bombing-range property." The bomb landed in the Stafford Forge Wildlife Management Area, adjacent to the Warren Grove Target Range he said.

DEP Chief/State Firewarden Dave Harrison was patrolling the area by helicopter where another small fire was burning when he discovered smoke from a new wildfire that spread rapidly along the Pine Barrens forests of Bass River and Little Egg Harbor townships. He along with a Forest Fire Service observer stationed on ground at Apple Pie Lookout Tower called in the fire at the same time.

Harrison stated that hazard reduction through the use of prescribed burning is also performed within the Target Range to reduce the risk of causing a wildfire. He said that fire danger was considered to be acceptable for range operations in the target area on Sunday.

"It could have been worse," said Harrison who praised the 50 New Jersey fire fighters who immediately responded to the scene. "This fire rapidly spread to 1,600 acres in five hours."

DEP's Bureau of Forest Fire Management is responsible for protecting 3.2 million acres of state and private forests. For further information call State Forest Fire Headquarters at 609-292-2997 or Central New Jersey, New Lisbon at 609-726-9010.

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