Monmouth County News

New Jersey's Wildfire Season Off to Early Start Due to Warm Winter

With an early start to the wildfire season, the N.J. Forest Fire Service is cautioning the public that a moment of carelessness can lead to wildfires that can place properties and lives at risk

TRENTON, NJ — The spring wildfire season is getting an early start this year, thanks to a drier and warmer winter.

As a result. the N.J. Forest Fire Service (NJFFS) is urging the public to exercise caution, with all regions of the state currently classified as being at moderate risk of wildfires, including Monmouth County whose southern border is a short distance from the Pinelands region.

Yesterday evening, a brush fire burned some three wooded acres in Waretown, near Wells Mills Road, before being brought under control by NJFFS, which used an air tanker and 10 trucks, with support from area firefighters. There were no reports of injuries or property damage.

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"The beginning of wildfire season can vary from year to year, depending on weather conditions," said Forest Fire Service Chief Bill Edwards. "This year we are off to a somewhat earlier start because the winter became drier and warmer than normal as we progressed into late February. We cannot stress enough that a moment of carelessness can lead to wildfires that can place properties and lives at risk."

Fire risks increase as more homes are built in wooded areas. The Pinelands ecosystem, covering a large swath of southern New Jersey about 10 miles south of Monmouth County, is particularly vulnerable because of its predominant tree and shrub species. The region also dries out quickly after rainfall because of its porous and sandy soil.

Ninety-nine percent of wildfires are caused by people, through accidents, carelessness, negligence and even arson. Being extra vigilant to reduce that risk is especially critical at this time of year, when weather conditions and other factors can increase the risk of wildfires.

Dry, warmer and windy conditions increase the risk for wildfire, especially this time of year when trees and understory bushes have not fully gotten their leaves. Fallen trees and limbs, dormant woody plants, and leaves and pine needles dry out quickly and can act as tinder for wildfires that can threaten property.



Fire risks increase as more homes are built in wooded areas. The Pinelands ecosystem, covering a large swath of southern New Jersey about 10 miles south of Monmouth County, is particularly vulnerable because of its predominant tree and shrub species. The region also dries out quickly after rainfall because of its porous and sandy soil.

Most wildfires are preventable. Following these guidelines can help to reduce fire risk:

  • Use ashtrays in vehicles. Discarding cigarettes, matches and smoking materials on the ground is a violation of New Jersey law.
  • Obtain required permits for campfires. Don't leave fires unattended. Douse them completely.
  • Keep matches and lighters away from children. Teach them about the dangers of fire.
  • People living in forested or wooded areas should maintain a defensible buffer by clearing vegetation within at least 30 feet of any structures. Also, make sure fire trucks can access driveways.
  • The Forest Fire Service strongly urges anyone who owns property in the Pinelands to maintain at least 100 feet of "defensible space" around structures, meaning these areas should be clear of vegetation that will burn easily as well as fallen leaves, pine needles, twigs and branches.
  • Report suspicious vehicles and individuals to authorities.
  • Be careful when using wood stoves and fireplaces, both of which can emit embers that can spark fires. Also, fully douse ashes with water before disposal.

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

This winter and spring, the state Forest Fire Service conducted prescribed burning operations on more than 15,000 acres of woodlands and grasslands. These controlled burns reduce fire risks and keep forests healthy by burning away leaves, fallen branches and trees, and dense undergrowth at times when weather conditions are favorable.

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