Brush Fire Conditions Spark Concerns
Abnormally warm temperatures and unusually dry conditions have started a series of brush fires in the area.
A mild winter may have been good for municipalites and their snow removal budget, but as spring begins the atypical weather pattern has increased the risk of brush fires.
Recently the Chester Township Police and the Chester Fire Company No. responded to a fire on Old Four Bridges Road that consumed a half acre of land before being extinguished. The cause of the fire was believed to be an extinguished cigar.
Regardless of the cause, the fires are something the Chester Township Police take seriously.
“These brush fires always have the potential to cause wide spread damage to property and injury to first responders and homeowners alike,” Chester Township Police Chief Wayne Martini said. “Fortunately, there was little wind that day and the quick response of fire personnel put a leash on the fire before it had time to get out of hand.”
Even more recently, on March 24, the police, the Chester Volunteer Fire Company and NJ Forest Fire Service were called to the area of State Park Road for a reported brush fire near a residence.
The residents were evacuated from their home while the fire companies worked to extinguish the fire. There were no injuries and no damage to structures and the family was able to return to their residence shortly thereafter. However, the resident was burning brush in a barrel when a gust of wind carried some embers away and set the woods on fire.
According to Scott Mortensen of the New Jersey Forest Fire Service, the local fire wardens have been on alert due to the dry, warm conditions experienced over the winter. The wardens look where the danger of wildfire may exist.
“This includes places like the Township of Chester which has not only a fair amount of open space but something else, termed 'wildland urban interface' where improved properties (homes) meet the natural surroundings,” Mortensen said. “It is these areas which cause us the most concern as they effect all three of the items we are trying to protect, life property and natural resources.”
For his part, Mortensen sees the mitigation of these dangers through vigilance of his organization and close communication with the local fire departments.
“By doing so we are able to safely utilize the least amount of resources, saving the taxpayers money,” Mortensen said. “While simultaneously meeting the goals of both agencies as well as the general public.”
Fire prevention through education and public awareness is key, and to that end, Mortensen and the New Jersey Forest Fire Service have a few reminders for the public:
- Make sure your home is numbered, in a conspicuous location.
- Keep flammables, such as accumulated leaves and pine needles away from your home. This includes out of the gutters and off the roof.
- Stack firewood at least 30' away from the house and dispose ashes properly as they should be cold, to the touch, prior to leaving them unattended.
- Make sure access to your property is available for emergency apparatus. 16' wide is a good guideline.
- All occupants, including children, should no to never to play with matches and how to dial emergency (911) help, should it be necessary.
- Plan a safe escape route for you and your family including a 'meeting place' where all can re-assemble.
- Never burn without a permit and never leave a fire unattended. This includes barbecues, chimineas, etc.
- Should a fire occur, call 911 immediately. Do not hesitate!
As the lead agency in the state, the New Jersey Forest Fire Service is responsible for protecting life, property and natural resources from the threat of wildfire. Our goal is to limit the number of wildfires annually to under 2,000 and the acreage burned to less than 1/2 of 1% of the total protected area of 3.15 million acres. This translates to 15,000 acres. Some of their preventative action includes fire hazard mitigation, including prescribed (controlled) burning; improved training throughout the agency as well as local departments, followed by a safe and aggressive initial attack on any reported wildfires.
Additional information available at http://www.state.nj.us/dep/parksandforests/fire/aboutus.html