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Posted Friday, March 22nd, 2019

The State Forest Fire Service has announced it will set prescribed burns in wooded areas in the Chester Township area over the weekend to reduce undergrowth and other forest floor materials that have the potential to fuel wildfires.

The Fire Service, which is a branch of the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection announced this week, has targeted 40 acres of grassland at Hacklebarney State Park — weather permitting.

Forest Fire Service personnel use best management practices and follow a plan to control smoke impacts during the burns, but nearby residents and visitors should expect to see large plumes of smoke and may experience temporary impacts from smoke.

Firefighter watching a controlled burn

Photo: James Douglas

The Forest Fire Service can protect property, lives and infrastructure by creating defensible space and strategic fire breaks near developed areas, according to Greg McLaughlin, Chief of the New Jersey Forest Fire Service.

“These prescribed burns help prevent wildfires, reduce the intensity of these fires, and provide a foundation for safer, more effective fire suppression and protection operations,” said McLaughlin.

Prescribed burns, also known as controlled burns, generally are conducted during late winter months to reduce the amount of smoke produced and because weather conditions tend to be more predictable for safer controlled fires. They can help keep forest ecosystems healthy by improving wildlife habitats, managing competing species of plants and trees, controlling insects and disease, and recycling important nutrients into the soil.

Prescribed Burns This Weekend in Chester Township

Photo: James Douglas

During prescribed burns, Forest Fire Service personnel use handheld torches to set smaller fires to burn away fallen leaves, pine needles, fallen branches and other debris on the forest floor. Personnel consider wind, moisture and other conditions in setting the fires, which influence a burn’s intensity and severity to accomplish various resource and ecological objectives such as hazard fuel reduction and habitat management.

Motorists are also reminded to use caution when approaching areas where prescribed burns are taking place.

This season, the Forest Fire Service expects to conduct prescribed burns on approximately 35,000 acres across the state.

Contact one of the State Forest Fire Service’s three Division office at to learn more about the prescribed burns program and where burns are expected to be conducted.