UPDATE: A "red flag" warning continues throughout the end of the week in New Jersey out of concern that dry conditions with gusty winds could turn what ordinarily would be common brush blazes into fiercely destructive wildfires.
That means watching your butts, smokers. And no campfires, bonfires or charcoal cookouts.
A hazardous weather warning from the National Weather Service continued through Thursday, April 28, as well as Friday, because of the conditions.
Those are: wind gusts of 35 to 45 miles an hour in some areas, humidity as low as 15% and a snowball's chance in hell of rain any time before next week.
A weather watch will follow on Saturday and Sunday unless there's reason to jack it to a hazardous warning again, the weather service said.
Eighteen of New Jersey's 21 counties are affected (Cape May, Cumberland and Salem counties are excepted).
Meanwhile, firefighters worked to contain a wildfire in Wanaque that at last check covered more than two acres Thursday while sending up a huge column of smoke that could be seen for miles.
Concerns are ordinarily raised when "critical fire weather conditions are forecast to occur due to a combination of strong winds, low relative humidity and dry fuels,” the National Weather Service said.
Red flag warnings go up when conditions worsen or fires break out, as in Wanaque.
It was 13 months ago when an enormous fire roared through 167 wooded acres and jumped the entire width of the Garden State Parkway from Lakewood into Brick Township while a Meadowlands brush fire stopped short of the New Jersey Turnpike.
They were among no fewer than a half-dozen large brush fires -- and nearly just as many smaller blazes -- that raged at once throughout the Garden State that day, whipped by winds reported at up to 40 miles an hour and low humidity that barely cracked 20%.
The very same conditions are expected throughout the weekend.
The New Jersey Forest Fire Service is prohibiting all fires in wooded areas -- including campfires, bonfires, you name it -- unless they're contained in an elevated stove using only propane, natural gas, gas, or electricity.
No charcoal fires are allowed.
The National Weather Service, at the same time, issued a set of guidelines:
- If you are allowed to burn in your area, all burn barrels must be covered with a weighted metal cover, with holes no larger than 3/4 of an inch;
- Do not throw cigarettes or matches out of a moving vehicle. They may ignite dry grass on the side of the road and become a wildfire;
- Extinguish all outdoor fires properly. Drown fires with plenty of water and stir to make sure everything is cold to the touch. Dunk charcoal in water until cold. Do not throw live charcoal on the ground and leave it;
- Never leave a fire unattended. Sparks or embers can blow into leaves or grass, ignite a fire, and quickly spread.
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