Wildfires are becoming more likely in South Jersey because of the dry air and strong winds. Sunday, the National Weather Service put out a “Red Flag Warning,” which means that any fire that starts could quickly get out of control.
Officials are warning about situations like this one. It started on March 7 in Little Egg Harbor Township and burned 400 acres.
“We’ve had 119 fires across the state this year through February,” said Greg McLaughlin, Chief of the NJ Forest Fire Service. “Last year, between January and February, there were 71 fires. So, there seems to be more going on.”
McLaughlin says that wildfire season usually starts in the middle of March, but it started a month early this year because the winter was warmer than usual.
“Because snow is heavier, it will pack down some of the pine needles and leaves on the forest floor, making it harder for air to get between them. So it might take a little more effort to start a fire, “McLaughlin said.
This year, though, there hasn’t been that much snow, so fires are more likely to spread quickly if they start. It could even happen in small wooded areas close to towns.
On Sunday, a brush fire started on Feiler Court in Lawrence Township, close to an apartment complex.
Liz Carney could smell the smoke.
Carney said, “My husband thought it might be bacon or something the neighbours were cooking, but I thought it was probably a fire.”
High winds and dry air make it possible for fires to spread quickly, so McLaughlin is telling people to be careful.
“People are cleaning up and thinking about spring. They may be putting out the ashes from their wood stoves or fireplaces. And, you know, we see fires start because people don’t realize that the coals in their fireplaces might not actually be out “McLaughlin said.
If the weather is good, the New Jersey Forest Fire Service will start doing more controlled burns this week to get rid of dangerous fuel and make it less likely that wildfires will get out of control.