You may see smoke on your drive or hike, and it may be no cause for alarm.

The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection has announced that "prescribed burns" will be taking place across thousands of acres into spring.

The intentional fires burn potential fuels such as leaves, pine needles, and branches on the forest floor, so that in the event of a real forest fire, the flames would have less to feed on.

In total this year, the New Jersey Forest Fire Service intends to treat 25,000 acres of forests, grassland, and marsh with prescribed fire, DEP said. The burns typically occur from February through April — hitting the targeted acreage depends on the weather.

Most burns occur on state-owned property, but the Forest Fire Service also assists private landowners, nonprofits, and local governments.

DEP advises motorists to use caution when approaching areas where prescribed burns are taking place. There may be reduced speed limits in place, as well as equipment and personnel.

Anyone who's unsure about the source of smoke or whether they're witnessing a prescribed burn can call 1-877-WARN-DEP or 911.

According to DEP, in addition to reducing forest floor fuels, prescribed burns improve habitat for plants and animals, reduce the presence of damaging insects, and recycle nutrients into the soil.

Prescribed burns were completed on nearly 17,000 acres in 2022.

Dino Flammia is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at

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