As this long, hot summer continues without enough rainfall, the forest fire risk may grow.

Bob Considine of the DEP said right now the fire risk in Jersey's woods is low to moderate because they are fully shaded by trees and their leaves.

"The good news is that we are pretty much through the prime forest fire season," he said. "Iin the spring, you have the sun beating directly to the ground."

But Considine also said that the bad news is it continues to be very hot and dry — and if that keeps up, the risk of fires could grow.

So far this year, New Jersey has seen 764 fires that have burned more than 4,000 acres, compared to just 1,436 acres at this time last year. But Considine said we have not had a major forest fire.

"We really haven't had that huge, 3,000 acre fire that becomes the big story of the year. Our biggest fire this year was about 500 acres in the Bass River State Forest back in May," he said.

Speaking in glowing terms of the job being done by the State Forest Fire Service, he said, "they have made sure that those little fires stayed little fires. They just do a great job."

And for visitors to New Jersey's wooded areas this summer, Considine noted "most wildfires are preventable."

"Things people can do are kind of common sense. But it does help. We ask that people get permits for camp fires and do not leave them unattended. You have to douse them completely if you are going to have one," he said.

Considine said officials also ask that people who live in forested or wooded areas maintain a "defensible buffer" by clearing any kind of vegetation that is within 30 feet of a structure, so fire trucks can access driveways.

He also said residents should report suspicious vehicles to authorities.

"There have been instances where we have gotten a heads up of suspicious activity, and that has actually been a help in actually keeping fires to a small acreage, because we were able to react so quickly," he said.

Joe Cutter is the afternoon news anchor on New Jersey 101.5.

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