Several controlled burns in wooded areas of Ocean County could be seen for miles on Monday following a number of the burns that occurred over the weekend. State officials say the burns are conducted each year ahead of forest fire season – generally considered the time period in March and May when breezy conditions can spread forest fires that are fueled by dried leaves left over from the fall and winter.
The large prescribed burn took place on county-owned land in Lacey Township on Monday, but was conducted by the state Forest Fire Service.
“There are multiple benefits to prescribed burning, which is a safe, effective and efficient means of managing the buildup of forest fuels that may contribute to the start and spread of a wildfire,” the state Forest Fire Service said in a statement. “By actively eliminating sources of fuel that exacerbate forest fire risks through a controlled and prescribed burning program, the Forest Fire Service reduces risk to New Jersey residents, visitors and the environment.”
Though largely weather dependent, the prescribed burns will continue through the rest of the week, though no more are expected to occur locally over the next five days. Burns are scheduled this week in the area near Plumsted and Bordentown and at Monmouth Battlefield State Park in the Freehold area. Additional burns will take place in Atlantic, Cape May and the northwestern reaches of Wharton State Forest near border between Burlington and Camden counties.
According to the state Department of Environmental Protection, prescribed burns “improve habitat for plants and animals, reduce the presence of damaging insects and ticks, and recycle nutrients into the soil.” In addition, prescribed burning is an important part of the state’s “carbon defense strategy.”
“Allowing experts to choose the intensity, timing and interval of fire across the landscape may help prevent a larger uncontrolled wildfire, which would contribute to significant carbon loss,” the DEP said in a fact sheet. “Typically, most prescribed burns take place between February and early April.”