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Outdoor Fire Safety

New Jersey's greatest danger of wildfires occurs during the spring months of March, April, and May, and the autumn months of October and November. Because trees are bare during these months, sunlight is allowed to reach the ground and dry the leaf litter on the forest floor. Winds during the spring and fall can be strong and dry, thus creating a deep, fluffy layer of hazardous forest fuels. Lastly, an ignition source can spark these fuels, creating a devastating wildfire.

Regardless of the season, conditions often allow wildfires to start. Wildfires may occur during any month and at any time of day, damaging valuable forests and natural resources, and threatening improved property and human lives.

Wildfires can be prevented! Being careful with the use of fire can prevent ninety-nine percent of all wildfires in New Jersey. The following tips can help you enjoy fire safely in the outdoors. For more information about fire safety in New Jersey's Outdoors, contact your local Forest Firewarden.

Lanterns, Stoves, and Heaters
Cool all lanterns, stoves, and heaters before refueling them. They should be refueled on the ground in a cleared area; if any fuel spills, move the appliance to a new area before lighting it. Store flammable liquid fuel containers in a safe place. Never light lanterns and stoves inside a tent, trailer, or camper. If you use a lantern or stove inside a tent or trailer, be sure to have adequate ventilation. Always read and follow instructions provided by the manufacturer.

Spark Arresters
All types of equipment and vehicles are required to have spark arresters. Chain saws, portable generators, cross-country vehicles, and trail bikes, for example, require spark arresters if used in or near grass, brush, or wooded areas. Check with your local dealer to ensure that the spark arrester is functioning properly.

Smoking
When smoking outdoors, safe practices require proper disposal of smoking materials and matches. Grind out your cigarette, cigar, or pipe tobacco in mineral soil and ensure that match heads are cold before disposing. Be careful when smoking while riding a horse or trail bike.

Charcoal Briquets
After using burning charcoal briquets, "dunk 'em!" Don't sprinkle. Soak the coals with lots of water; stir them and soak again. Be sure they are out - Cold! Carefully feel the coals with your bare hands to be sure.

Campfires
All campfires require a permit. Check with your local Forest Firewarden or local fire official regarding specific rules and regulations. Also, check the weather conditions; don't burn on dry, windy days! Visit our fire restrictions page for the latest news on campfire restrictions.

Build campfires away from trees, overhanging branches, stumps, logs, dense dry grass, and forest litter. Pile any extra fire wood away from the fire. Keep plenty of water handy and have a shovel for throwing dirt on the fire if it gets out of control.

Start with dry twigs and small sticks. Add larger sticks as the fire builds up. Put the largest pieces of wood on last, pointing them toward the center of the fire, and gradually push them into the flames.

Keep the campfire small. A good bed of coals or a small fire surrounded by rocks gives plenty of heat. Scrape away litter, duff, and any organic material for a radius of 10-feet in all directions. This will keep a small campfire from spreading. Never leave a campfire unattended!! Even a small breeze could quickly cause the fire to spread.

Drown the fire with water. Make sure all embers, coals, and sticks are wet. Move rocks, there may be burning embers underneath.

Stir the remains, add more water, and stir again. Be sure all burned material has been extinguished and cooled. If you do not have water, use dirt. Mix enough soil or sand with the embers. Continue adding and stirring until all material is cooled. Feel all materials with your bare hand. Make sure that no roots are burning. Do not bury your coals - they can smolder and result in a fire.

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Department of Environmental Protection
P. O. Box 402
Trenton, NJ 08625-0402

Last Updated: November 3, 2008

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