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New Jersey Forest Fire Service continues prescribed burning following "abnormally active fire year"

New Jersey Forest Fire Service preparing for wildfire season
New Jersey Forest Fire Service preparing for wildfire season 02:24

OCEAN COUNTY, N.J. (CBS ) –  It's less than a month until spring fire season officially begins, and the New Jersey Forest Fire Service is preparing for what may come.

On Thursday, the Colliers Mills Wildlife Management Area in Ocean County became their office.

"We're trying to burn these fuels under favorable weather so that when there's a wildfire, we can prevent it from starting or outright stop it," NJFFS Assistant Division Forest Fire Warden Trevor Raynor said.

RELATED: New Jersey Forest Fire Service to get $3M in funding after historic 2023 wildfire season

Those fuels include grass, leaves and brush. About 500 acres are set to burn in the wildlife management area over a matter of hours.


"The weather has to be right, so that's temperature, humidity, rainfall, wind speed. Personnel has to be available and notifications have to be made. We don't just come out here haphazardly and burn," Raynor said.

The idea is simple – burn these fires now to prevent other fires later. Every year around this time, the state fire service identifies high-risk areas and then moves forward with prescribed burning.

"It's like a lot of little puzzle pieces. And all these puzzle pieces match up. And they create fuel breaks where we're able to steer fires into or stop fires," Raynor said.

RELATED: Behind the scenes look at how funding is being used to fight New Jersey forest fires

This all comes after a busy year for NJFFS. The agency notes more than 18,000 acres across the state burned in 2023. A spokesperson adds last year, they saw the most major fires, meaning 100 acres or more burned than they had in more than 20 years.

"We were going from one fire to another, sometimes multiple fires in a day. It was taxing," Raynor said.

In 2024, the state agency's goal is "to treat 25,000 acres with prescribed fire," which is up from a little more than 20,000 last year.

"Ultimately it's wet now, but just a couple days from now. We could be having wildfires," Raynor said.

Prescribed burns will continue throughout the state. Spring fire season officially begins March 15.

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