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April 19, 2023

Red flag warning for increased fire risk issued for all New Jersey counties

The alert will last until at least 8 p.m. Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service

A red flag warning for increased fire risk was issued in all 21 New Jersey counties on Wednesday due to dry conditions and low humidity, according to the National Weather Service. 

The red flag warning will be in place from 11 a.m. until 8 p.m. due to the combination of wind gusts expected to reach speeds up to 25 mph, the forecasted 20-30% humidity and temperatures in the mid-60s for much of the day. These will "result in favorable conditions for the rapid spread of fires this afternoon," according to the weather service.

"That (a red flag warning) means that the right amount of conditions are out there for the start of spread of wildfires," John Moore, a meteorologist and spokesperson for the National Weather Service, told NPR. "It also means critical fire weather conditions are occurring now or will be shortly... So we tell people to exercise extreme caution if you're burning ... or doing anything with fire outside." 

Much of South Jersey was under a red flag warning on Tuesday as well due to a 257-acre wildfire that erupted off Route 342 and River Road in Burlington County. The wildfire is threatening 30 structures in the area, and is about 85% contained, according to the New Jersey Forest Fire Service. 

The flames were first spotted around 11:48 a.m. on Tuesday, but there are no evacuations in place for the surrounding area in Washington Township. Firefighters created a fire break line for residents and crews to walk through in order to stay clear of the flames, 6ABC reported. 

As New Jersey is in its peak wildfire season, officials are concerned that current summer-like temperatures and dry conditions may spark more fires later this spring.

"The continuing impacts of climate change mean our state is experiencing more severe weather conditions, storms, wind and drought that can result in a longer wildfire season, which is why it is more important than ever that the public exercise caution and take steps to help protect their homes and property," said Shawn M. LaTourette, New Jersey's environmental protection commissioner. "Preventing wildfires also helps avoid catastrophic releases of carbon that contribute to and exacerbate climate change." 

Prior to Tuesday's fire in Burlington County, the Forest Fire Service said that 517 fires have burned 7,608 acres in New Jersey so far this year, reported.

Last week, a wildfire in Ocean County engulfed more than 3,800 acres and prompted evacuations out of Manchester Township. About 75 structures were threatened by the blaze, according to the Forest Fire Service. No injuries were reported and the cause of the fire remains under investigation. 

The Forest Fire Service also recently responded to a wildfire that consumed 418 acres last month in an uninhabited section of the Stafford Forge Wildlife Management Area, near Little Egg Harbor. That's near the Air National Guard's Warren Grove target range, the site of a 2007 wildfire that burned through 17,000 acres. 

The National Weather Service has up-to-the-minute information about the fire risk across South Jersey. For more information on wildfire prevention and burn restrictions, residents can visit the New Jersey Forest Fire Service