Guess how many wildfires the New Jersey Forest Fire Service has responded to so far in 2023.

Chances are, most of your guesses are way off — perhaps by several hundred.

In response to increasing wildfire risks in the Garden State, due to climate change, the Murphy Administration announced on Thursday that the Forest Fire Service is getting an additional $3 million to enhance protection.

The additional funding will primarily be used to upgrade the agency's aging fleet of equipment. The fire engines used by the Forest Fire Service are constructed "in-house" and are specially designed to access hard-to-reach areas of forests in the event of a fire.

The money will also be used to help fill critical job vacancies with full-time employees, and to expand contracted air support during peak wildfire season.

NJ wildfires in 2023

Dragway Wildfire in the Atco section of Waterford Township 8/23/23
Dragway Wildfire in the Atco section of Waterford Township 8/23/23 (NJ DEP)

Since the start of 2023, the Forest Fire Service has responded to 1,034 wildfires. Fourteen of them were considered to be major.

According to the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, 2023 has been the busiest fire season in more than a decade.

"The majority of our wildfires are not that well known, because thankfully, they're not in populated areas," DEP Commissioner Shawn LaTourette told New Jersey 101.5.

Ninety-nine percent of New Jersey's forest fires are caused by humans, by accident or on purpose. The rest are caused by lightning strikes.

But the state's changing climate exacerbates the risk of these fires when they spark, officials say, and is forcing resources to be on standby for a greater amount of the year.

Similar to what's been seen across the country, fire season has increased in the Garden State. Historically, wildfire season runs from mid-March through mid-May, given dry conditions and little leaf cover to block the sun from hitting natural fuels on the ground. But the state has seen wildfires occurring in February and extending into summer, DEP said.

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