NJ Forest Fire Service declares war on wildfires
🔥 NJ Forest Fire Service fighting blazes all over Jersey
🔥 Air support being used to push back flames until ground troops arrive
🔥 Forest Fire officials asking the public to stay aware and alert
It’s spring, a time of rebirth and new beginnings, but after multiple blazes broke out last week the New Jersey Forest Fire Service is now engaged in a desperate battle to stop wildfires from spreading across the state.
So far this year there have been 517 wildfires that have burned 7,608 acres of forest area. That’s compared to 327 wildfires that scorched a total of 471 acres last year during the same time period.
War against wildfires has been declared
Greg McLaughlin, chief of the New Jersey Forest Fire Service, said conditions are dry, humidity levels are low, conditions are frequently windy and the Forest Fire Service is basically engaged in a war against wildfires.
“I mean this is combat, this is front lines, this is very much a battle. We position ourselves in front of the fire, around the fire, we create flanks,” he said.
He said the initial battle strategy is to respond to fires as quickly as possible using different methods “to keep them small and not let them get large and out of control. Obviously, sometimes we can’t do that, if the front line is not working and the flanks are failing, then we go to plan B.”
Direct attacks, indirect attacks
He noted if a fire starts in a remote part of the forest a so-called “direct attack” using off-road vehicles may be limited, so “indirect attack” plans are drawn up, including containing a blaze with controlled burns and by utilizing nearby roads “where we can manage the fuels ahead of and around the fire to effectively prevent the fire from spreading beyond what we want it to, in a designated containment area.”
McLaughlin said the Forest Fire Service is now using additional aircraft in direct initial fire attacks, dropping water to help contain a blaze until ground forces arrive.
He noted when humidity is lower and the winds are blowing the “ember effect” is magnified, where embers from existing fires can be carried up to a mile away, starting new blazes.
Steering fire away from people
He stressed efforts are always made to push fire away from inhabited areas so people and buildings won’t be put in harms way.
“There is a significant amount of strategy going on to create conditions that are not conducive to fire spread.”
John Cecil, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection assistant commissioner for state parks and forestry, said the Garden State is warming up and conditions are dry
“We’ve got environmental conditions, invasive plants, invasive insects that create more volatile fuels, or kill vegetation which creates more fuels," he said.
Assistant Division Fire Warden Bill Love said that peak fire season has arrived.
He said 21 fire towers around the state take weather calculations twice a day and dangerous “red flag” conditions are frequently declared, triggering extra patrols with added trucks and personnel along with multiple aircraft including helicopters that can carry up to 300 gallons of water.
McLaughlin said people should enjoy the warmer weather outdoors “but we also want to caution people to be careful and be smart, think about the environment they’re living in.”
David Matthau is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at email@example.com
Click here to contact an editor about feedback or a correction for this story.