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People, Sun and Wind Contribute to NJ Forest Fires [AUDIO]

Brush and forest fires like the one that flared up in the Wharton State Forest over the past two days are fairly common in the spring in New Jersey.

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Assistant State Forest Fire Warden Steve Holmes says during March, April and May, there are no leaves on the trees and the sun can easily penetrate to the forest floor, drying it out quickly — even after the kind of wet winter we just left behind.

“If you have a few days of dry, windy weather, we can have large fires,” Holmes said. “And that’s it in a nutshell in New Jersey.”

Holmes also said the forest floor can dry out fast even after heavy rain.

“It can rain today heavily,” Holmes said. “If the wind blows tomorrow, 70 degrees, it dries out very quickly.”

He added that the wind is not the biggest forest fire threat.

“People are our main cause of fire, whether intentional or accidental,” Holmes said.

He says lightning can also spark a forest blaze, but it’s not as common a cause as it is in the western part of the country.

But believe it or not, brush and forest fires are actually a benefit. Holmes says the Pine Barrens need fires to survive, as a “fire-adapted” species. He says the cones on the pine trees are really tight. But when the fire goes through, they loosen, allowing the seeds to come out and actually regenerate.

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