The unseasonably warm, dry and windy conditions that New Jersey residents have enjoyed during the last month have also left the entire region at risk for wildfires.
With another week of dry weather ahead, Union County Freeholder Chairman Alexander Mirabella asked all county residents to be extremely cautious when using barbecue grills, outdoor power equipment, fire pits, candles, and torches.
“We are an urban area that is not usually subject to forest fire warnings, but these are unusually dry conditions,” said Union County Freeholder Chairman Alexander Mirabella. “Fires can easily start in our parks and wooded areas, and spread to nearby homes. We are asking everyone to be especially vigilant.”
Last month a cropped up in Cranford, an unusual occurrence for Union County. The blaze covered about one acre of wooded area adjacent to Nomahegan Park was brough under control by local and county firefighters at about 2:30 p.m. on March 14.
Capt. Wesley Ditzell of the said at the time that the dry, windy conditions throughout the area increased the risk for such fires and made it easier for them to spread.
Last week a “high” fire danger rating was issued by the New Jersey Forest Fire Service for northern New Jersey and it may be stepped up to “extreme.” In addition, the National Weather Service has issued a red flag warning for Union County until 8 p.m. Tuesday night. A red flag warning means that "critical fire conditions are expected or occurring. A combination of strong winds and low relative humidity will create a significantly elevated fire growth potential," according to the NWS.
Union County residents can help prevent wildfires in public parks by using only the elevated grills provided at designated areas for cooking with charcoal or wood. Keep extra water handy, watch the grill for sparks while cooking and douse the fire thoroughly when finished.
Cigarette smokers should dispose of their butts only in trash cans, portable ash trays or car ashtrays.
County residents who live next to parks and other wooded areas can help by exercising care with grills and candles. Residents should also keep an eye out for sparks when using power motors and outdoor equipment. Keeping property clear of debris and other fire hazards such as flammable liquids is also important, county officials said.
Union County offers free drop-off days to collect used motor oil, paint thinner and other flammable substances from residents. For information call the recycling hotline, 908-654-9889 or visit ucnj.org/recycle.