Brick Township firefighters battled brush fires over the weekend, especially as winds picked up Sunday.
The biggest such fire was reported near the southbound exit 89 of the Garden State Parkway, which drew a response from the Herbertsville, Pioneer Hose and Breton Woods fire companies. The fire was put out with the help of the state Forest Fire Service, and was likely caused by a cigarette being tossed from the window of a vehicle.
Kevin Batzel, director of the township’s Bureau of Fire Prevention, said the brush fire risk has increased since winds picked up. April is often the time of the year most susceptible to brush fires starting, as it is characterized by high winds, dried leaves on the ground, and the land beginning to dry out after winter storms.
Since the ground was recently covered with snow, the risk is even higher this year than normal.
“Unfortunately, a lot of prescribed burning by the state hasn’t been able to take place,” Batzel said. “As things dry out pretty quickly with the winds, things can break out pretty fast.”
Firefighters will likely get a reprieve from the brush fire calls Tuesday, as rain is forecast. But bright sunshine will return Wednesday with the wind forecast to blow as high as 15 m.p.h.
Batzel said motorists can help the situation by refraining from throwing lit cigarettes out of the windows of their vehicles. All local residents can help by keeping close watch over open flames, such as backyard fire pits. The danger posed by lit cigarettes being thrown from vehicle windows is the greatest risk, however.
“It’s extremely dangerous for firefighters as well as the motorists that are there,” said Batzel, explaining that smoke conditions caused by brush fires along the highway can lead to accidents as drivers become distracted or cannot see as clearly as usual. “These fires can get right in the backyards of homes very quickly. We might get called to a fire on the Parkway, and by the time we get there it could be in someone’s backyard in Birchwood Park.”