DCA and DEP Issue Wildfire and Urban Grassland Fire Season Reminder

Departments Remind All Residents to Focus on Wildfire Prevention


TRENTON, NJ – The New Jersey Departments of Community Affairs (DCA) and Environmental Protection (DEP) today issued recommendations on how people can prevent wildfire and urban area grassland fires during the summer season. Both the DCA's Division of Fire Safety and the DEP's New Jersey Forest Fire Service stress that over 90 percent of wildfires are caused by individual carelessness.

"This year's wet and rainy season is no guarantee that wildfires won’t occur. In some parts of the state, rainwater absorbs so quickly that fires can start at any time," said DCA Commissioner Lori Grifa. "This is why it is so important that people take extra precautions when handling fires and flammable materials outdoors."

The New Jersey Forest Fire Service has already battled 442 fires in the first half of 2011, including two major forest fires in Wharton State Forest in Burlington County.

The Division of Fire Safety notes that other areas particularly vulnerable to wildfires and urban grassland fires include vacant former industrial sites; areas along the New Jersey Turnpike, such as the Meadowlands; and areas with large swatches of phragmites, a plant native to state marshlands such as those surrounding the Raritan River.

"People must be extremely careful when it comes to fires at this time of year, whether they are in urban areas or rural settings," said Mike Drake, Supervisor of the New Jersey Forest Fire Service. "The consequences of fires can be devastating to communities and to the State’s environment."

Prior to participating in outdoor activities, the Division of Fire Safety and New Jersey Forest Fire Service encourage people to visit the National Weather Service website at www.nws.noaa.gov to find out if fire weather alerts have been activated.

There are a number of other things the general public can do to lessen the instances of wildfire and urban area grassland fires. They include:

  • Never start a fire in strong winds;

  • Make sure your lanterns, stoves, and heaters are cool before refueling;

  • Soak hot coals with water until they become cold to the touch; and

  • Build campfires away from trees, overhanging branches, stumps, logs, dense dry grass, and forest litter.

The New Jersey Forest Fire Service notes that state law requires individuals to obtain permits before creating a campfire. For information on obtaining permits, people can visit http://www.nj.gov/dep/parksandforests/fire/permits.html.

Additional information on wildfires is available on the following websites:

The New Jersey Forest Fire Service is the agency responsible for protecting life and property, as well as the state's natural resources from wildfire.

The DCA's Division of Fire Safety serves as the central fire service agency in the State. The Division is responsible for the development and enforcement of the State Uniform Fire Code, as well as for implementing public education and firefighter training programs.

For more information, log on to www.nj.gov/dca/divisions/dfs/index.shtml on the DCA website.