BARNEGAT – If you see or smell smoke in Barnegat on Wednesday, it is most likely a prescribed burn performed by the New Jersey Forest Fire Service.
Prescribed burns are intentional fires set to clear out easily flammable brush before a wildfire does it.
The area around Cloverdale Farms, by Cloverdale Road, will be the focus of the burn. It should take place between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m.
The New Jersey State Forest Fire Service conducts burns throughout the state at the end of winter every year. The burns destroy fallen trees, branches, leaves, pine needles and other debris on the forest floor.
“By burning them away now, we can reduce the risk of these materials serving as tinder for wildfires later in the year,” said Bill Edwards, chief of the state fire service. “This practice also improves the overall ecological health of our forests and grasslands.”
The fire service expects to burn between 10,000 and 20,000 acres of forests and grasslands this season, they said. Most burns are on state-owned property. Because of the make-up of vegetation, the Pinelands region is the focus of much of the prescribed burning activity.
During burns, personnel use hand-held torches to burn away debris on the forest floor, taking into account wind, moisture and other conditions.
Last year, the Forest Fire Service responded to 1,065 wildfires, but 75 percent of them were a quarter acre or smaller. The largest was a 464-acre fire in Bass River State Forest in Burlington County.
Residents are advised that they might see large plumes of smoke and might smell smoke for miles around. The burns will continue through the end of March, depending on weather.
For more information, go to facebook.com/newjerseyforests or call 609-292-2977.
If you are unsure if it is a controlled burn or a real forest fire, call 911 or 877-WARN-DEP.