NJ Bill Targets Prescribed Burns [AUDIO]
With a goal of lessening the likelihood of massive forest fires in New Jersey, reintroduced legislation would set standards for state-run controlled burns, and allow private individuals to conduct such burns on their own property.
The measure from Assemblyman Ron Dancer (R-Ocean) would create a prescribed burn program that can certify individuals as "burn managers." The program would include subjects such as safety, fire behavior, smoke management and environmental effects.
"Here in New Jersey, we have over two million acres of woodlands and Pinelands," Dancer said. "While we may not be able to control superstorms like Sandy, we can control the likelihood of wildfires."
While burns are conducted to reduce the amount of fuel that fires can feed on, Dancer pointed out that burns do not destroy trees.
"What we really want to do is reduce the natural fire loads that are within the forest," he explained. "It's the dead leaves. It's the dead branches, and pine cones and needles."
Prescribed burns are currently conducted by the state, but without any standards on how they're performed or how people are notified. Under the bill, the New Jersey Bureau of Forest Fire Management would be authorized to prescribe burns "on any area of land within the state which is determined by the fire warden or designee to be in reasonable danger of wildfire."
Dancer said his measure can help reduce significant property damage and/or loss of life.
An identical bill was passed by both legislative houses last session, but the governor did not decide on the bill in time.