Home > Uncategorized > Latest Pinelands Wildfire Raises Serious Questions About DEP Forest Management

Latest Pinelands Wildfire Raises Serious Questions About DEP Forest Management

Did A DEP “Prescribed Burn” Or US Air Force Training Mission Start Wildfire?

Wildfire Threats To People And Property Expose Reckless Liability Exemption 

DEP And Pinelands Commission Fail To Consider Climate Or More Strictly Regulate Development In Extreme Wildfire Risk Areas

The most recent Pinelands wildfire raises serious questions about how DEP is managing NJ forests, including failure to consider changing conditions due to climate change, failure to restrict new development in extreme wildfire hazard locations, “forest thinning” (logging), and the safety procedures and liability exemption for so called “prescribed burns”.

The Associated Press reported:

The fire service has been doing controlled burns in the Pinelands in recent weeks to consume dead leaves, twigs and other forest floor fuel that could accelerate a wildfire. There were no burns being done anywhere else in the state on Tuesday because of the high winds, officials said.

The DEP officials need to back that statement up in writing.

Today I filed an OPRA public records request for DEP prescribed burns in the vicinity of the wildfire, and DEP wildfire plans and safety protocols.

I filed an OPRA for the investigative report for last summer’s large Pinelands wildfire in Wharton State Forest – which DEP attributed in media to a campfire – but DEP refused to provide the documents or evidence supporting that claim and did not even conduct an investigation, see:

Once again, high winds and low humidity drove the wildfire, and logging, “forest thinning”, firebreaks, and prescribed burns did NOTHING to reduce the intensity or spread of the wildfire.

In the meantime, while I await the DEP reply to my OPRA, here are some questions the public, the media, and legislators should be asking DEP:

1) DEP fails to consider climate or restrict development in high wildfire hazard locations

2) The NJ “Prescribed Burn Act” provides a liability exemption for damages from prescribed burns:

3) The US Air Force, according to their own statements, cause 1 fire every 10-14 days:

“Every year training activities ignite one fire every 10-14 days, which are suppressed on-site….

4) The US Forest Service imposed an administrative moratorium after the New Mexico Wildfire last year

That wildfire exposed the flawed science behind and need to revise USFS models and safety protocols, especially in light of the changes conditions in the models caused by wildfire (winds, dry soils and vegetation, low humidity, et al), see:

DEP has not done so, although they very likely rely on similarly flawed models.

5) DEP flat out lied to the Pinelands Commission and the public about their wildfire plan:

The DEP “wildfire plan” was approved by the Commission on Oct. 14. It allows logging of 1400 acres and 13 miles of firebreak:

We are now engaged with DEP on OPRA documents regarding the US Military $2 million REPI grant to fund DEP for the sole reason of “protecting” the mission of the Warren Grove base. We’ll write about that after DEP provides all the documents.

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