New Jersey's Forest Fire Service

New Jersey is called, "The Garden State." It is the most densely populated state in the country with over 1,000 people per square mile. Many who travel through the northeast portion of New Jersey, along the Route 95 corridor, may associate this state with...


To access the remainder of this piece of premium content, you must be registered with Firehouse. Already have an account? Login

Register in seconds by connecting with your preferred Social Network.

OR

Complete the registration form.

Required
Required
Required
Required
Required
Required
Required
Required
Required
Required

The NJFFS is part of the state Department of Environmental Protection's Division of Parks and Forests. The forest fire service has 75 full-time employees augmented by a large part-time/seasonal fire suppression force to handle forest fire problems and other related functions. The service is under the direction of a state fire warden with a permanent staff located in the Trenton headquarters.

3_99_swi2.jpg
Photo from Robert M. Winston's collection/courtesy of NJFFS
The Federal Excess Property Program provides military vehicles that are converted into specialized equipment like this tanker/tender.

The service is responsible for protecting 3.15 million acres of both public and private lands statewide. The areas are divided into three divisions - north, south and central.

A division forest fire warden administers each division. Each division is further partitioned into 100,000-acre sections. A full-time forest fire warden is assigned to each section. Sections are each subdivided into districts of 15,000 to 20,000 acres and a district forest fire warden is appointed. That warden is responsible for recruiting and training fire crews and issuing fire permits, fire suppression and other related jobs.

There are 249 district forest fire wardens statewide and more than 1,000 trained crew personnel listed in the state action and resource plans.

The NJFFS maintains a fleet of 246 fire suppression and other vehicles, 24 dozer/plow units, six aircraft and 138 pieces of specialized equipment. The service builds its initial-attack vehicles consisting of a truck cab, four-by-four chassis, utility body, 250-gallon water tank, pump, plumbing and special reinforcing bars. The service also converts and modifies federal excess property military vehicles into specialized firefighting equipment.

3_99_swi3.jpg
Photo from Robert M. Winston's collection/courtesy of NJFFS
Examples of the more than 400 pieces of mobile firefighting units and specialized equipment utilized by the New Jersey Forest Fire Service.

When a wildfire occurs, the first step in the process is a timely and accurate reporting of the fire's location. To accomplish this, the service maintains a system of 21 fire observation towers at strategic locations throughout the state. These towers are usually staffed whenever it is dry enough to burn and during the months of March, April, May, October and November. The tower observers detect half of all wildfires reported.

The forest fire observers do the initial dispatching of equipment. The respective division office does subsequent dispatching. The section forest fire warden forms the initial attack force and serves as the incident commander (IC). Aircraft are automatically dispatched when air attack bases are operational. The state contracts 10 additional fixed wing aircraft for aerial operations.

NJFFS personnel perform the initial fire attack on most wildland fires, other than in highly urbanized areas. The first-in fire unit begins size-up and fire attack. The section or district fire warden, in most cases, performs these functions and may request additional resources through the division office. Depending on the extent of the fire, weather conditions, structural protection if needed and other factors, the local fire department(s) may also be dispatched.

3_99_swi4.jpg
Photo from Robert M. Winston's collection/courtesy of NJFFS
A New Jersey forest fire crew operates at a large forest fire in a section of the 1 million-acre New Jersey pine barrens.

When a wildfire reaches 50 acres in size, it is reported to the division and the state headquarters. When a fire reaches or exceeds 100 acres, an incident command post is established and an observation aircraft is dispatched to aid in control and command operations. Additional state personnel and equipment can be moved from different areas to assist at large fires through the state headquarters. Should the need arise, the NJFFS can request assistance from the U.S. Forest Service and the Middle Atlantic Forest Fire Compact.

The forest fire service sponsors several programs designed to provide assistance to communities in time of need. Basic wildfire suppression and wildland/urban interface fire tactics training is provided to volunteer fire companies in all counties. Help is also provided under two federal programs: