DEP Urges Public
to be Fire Wise as Spring Forest Fire Season Heats Up
(03/67) TRENTON - Department of
Environmental Protection (DEP) Commissioner Bradley M. Campbell
today warned that the danger of wildfires is rising sharply
as New Jerseys forests dry out from an unusually wet
The state Forest Fire Service has responded
so far this year to 396 blazes that burned 790 acres. This
is fewer than the 893 wildfires reported during the same
period last year, but the fire frequency has increased in
recent weeks as the forest floor has dried out.
Fire danger is always highest this
time of year when plants have not yet leafed out, allowing
the drying rays of the sun to strike the forest floor,
Campbell said. People need to be particularly careful
with matches and lit cigarettes so they dont unintentionally
cause a fire that could threaten homes and lives.
Ninety-nine percent of all wildfires in
New Jersey are caused by human activity, usually carelessness
or arson, he noted.
The largest wildfires this year include
a 275-acre blaze on April 16 in Waterford, Camden County,
and a 90-acre fire on April 15 in Old Bridge, Middlesex
County. On Monday, the Forest Fire Service responded to
a three-acre fire in Monroe Township and a one-acre fire
in Waterford Township, both in Camden County.
The fire danger is currently moderate to
high, signifying that fires will start from a lighted match
and spread rapidly in dry grass.
DEP Chief State Firewarden Maris Gabliks
said wildfire risks increase with every new structure built
in or adjacent to forests. Wildfires can spread quickly
in New Jersey, threatening homes, property, natural resources
and human lives.
Wildfires have the potential to affect
entire communities and the quality of life New Jersey residents
enjoy in our forests and open spaces, Gabliks said.
To reduce the risk of fires, people should
follow these guidelines:
- Use ashtrays in vehicles. Discarding cigarettes, matches
and smoking materials is a violation of New Jersey law.
- Drown campfires. Obtain necessary permits. Dont
leave fires unattended.
- Keep matches and lighters away from children and explain
to them the dangers of fire.
- People living in the forest should maintain a defensible
buffer by clearing vegetation within 30 feet of any structures.
Also, make sure firetrucks can pass down your driveway.
- Report suspicious vehicles and individuals. Arson is
a major cause of forest fires in New Jersey.
- Check with your local Forest Firewarden about burning
Fire permits are required for recreational
fires, as well as for agricultural burning. The New Jersey
Air Pollution Control Act prohibits open burning of rubbish,
garbage, trade waste, buildings, fallen timber and leaves
or plants. For information on obtaining permits for recreational
or agricultural burning, call the nearest DEP Forest Fire
- Northern Forest Fire Headquarters in Franklin, Sussex
County, (973) 827-6100
- Central Forest Fire Headquarters in New Lisbon, Burlington
County, (609) 726-9010
- Southern Forest Fire Headquarters in Mays Landing,
Atlantic County, (609) 625-1121
Unintentional violations of forest fire
laws carry a maximum penalty of $5,000 for each offense,
plus all fire suppression costs. Arson and other willful
violations are subject to a maximum penalty of $100,000
for each offense plus all suppression costs.
For more information on wildfires and fire safety, please
visit the New Jersey Forest Fire Service web site at www.state.nj.us/dep/forestry/parknj/forestfire/firesafety.htm