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State of New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection
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February 28, 2013

Contact:Lawrence Hajna (609) 984-1795
Lawrence Ragonese (609) 292-2994
Bob Considine (609) 984-1795


Sandy Debris in Forests Increases the Need for Prescribed Burns This Season

(13/P14) TRENTON – Winter prescribed burns, an integral part of the New Jersey Forest Fire Service’s wildfire risk reduction strategy, are under way throughout the state, with an additional need this year due to felled trees and forest debris caused by Superstorm Sandy, Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin said today.

“Prescribed burning is part of a planned strategy that the Forest Fire Service uses to manage natural fuels including undergrowth and fallen branches and trees, which helps to reduce the size and severity of wildfires,” Commissioner Martin said. “Prescribed burns help protect lives, property and improve the overall health of our forests. This year, it’s even more important to take this preventative action because the forest floor across our state is filled with downed trees caused by Sandy.’’

Each year, the Forest Fire Service, within the DEP’s Forestry Services, burns 10,000 to 15,000 acres of forests and grasslands. These fires burn brush, leaves and needles but do not reach the canopy of the forest or cause significant tree loss as wildfires do.

“There is an increased fuel load on the ground this year, which could feed forest fires, due to the devastation caused in our woodlands by Superstorm Sandy,” said Steve Holmes, Supervising Forest Fire Warden for the DEP. “Many fully needled pine trees are on the ground in southern portions of the state, while larger, heavily leaved trees were felled in northern areas, providing potential major kindling for forest fires.’’

“The tool of prescribed burning is just one practice that State Forestry Services relies on to maintain overall forest health. When combined with insect and disease treatments, habitat restoration, and carefully executed management plans, our forests will have a greater biodiversity of species, provide habitat for wildlife, and create safe recreation opportunities for residents,” added State Forester Lynn Fleming.

Prescribed burns are carried out statewide by highly trained and experienced firefighters, under exacting weather conditions and with the necessary support equipment.  Prescribed fires are generally conducted during the winter months to minimize the amount of smoke produced, and when weather conditions tend to be safer for controlled fires.

In addition, the burns help reduce forest fire risks prior to entering the prime wildfire season, which in New Jersey generally begins around the middle of March, when leaves and debris are abundant, tree cover is low and conditions tend to be windy.

While the principal reason for prescribed burning is wildfire hazard reduction, the practice also has numerous secondary benefits, including improving habitat for wildlife, recycling nutrients into the soil, enhancing the appearance of the forest and improving the overall health of woodlands by removing dense undergrowth. Most of these burns will occur on state-owned property, such as state forests and wildlife management areas, as well as other public lands.

State crews conducted prescribed burns starting last week at Stafford Forge, Greenwood and Peaslee wildlife management areas in Ocean and Cumberland counties, and at Brendan Byrne State Forest in Burlington County and Allaire State Park in Monmouth County.

For further information about specific burn projects or prescribed burning in general, contact one of the following offices: Northern, (973) 786-6350; Central (609) 726-9010; and Southern (609) 625-1121, or visit

Media interested in seeing prescribed burns in action and talking to experts from the New Jersey Forest Fire Service can make arrangements through the DEP’s Press Office at the numbers above. The burns schedule is very weather dependent.



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Last Updated: January 17, 2013