Why is the New Jersey Forest Fire Service deliberately setting fires?
The New Jersey Forest Fire Service has dispatched crews to Colorado and California to help fight wildfires burning in those states.
Meanwhile, efforts are ongoing to prevent wildfires from breaking out in the Garden State.
“Prescribed burning is one of the techniques we use for fuel reduction as a prevention measure,” said Greg McLaughlin, the New Jersey state fire warden.
Fuels” include pine needles, leaves, shrubs, trees.
“We will intentionally light fires under controlled circumstances — meaning we know with some certainty the predictability of the weather.”
Prescribed burns are usually done during the winter months because temperatures, wind speed and direction are usually consistent.
The Forest Fire Service usually burns 15,000 to 20,000 acres a year in at-risk areas of New Jersey by establishing controlled lines.
“Those controlled lines are established either by a bulldozer, they could be roads — basically a controlled line is a non-burnable surface," he said.
He pointed out once a controlled line is established, “we would actually light the fire from these controlled lines, going essentially against the wind so that it is not being driven erratically by the winds.”
“The key element to a controlled prescribed burn is that you have enough resources, you’ve planned ahead, you know your weather condition.”
The New Jersey Forest Fire Service is one of the leading agencies in the nation for prescribed burns, helping to train forest fire personnel from many other states.
Because New Jersey is the most densely populated state in the nation, there is a lot of what is called wildland-urban interface, areas where the forest meets property structures, which makes prescribed burning challenging.
“We have to predict days when smoke is not going to impact residential communities, roads, hospitals," he said.