Home » What’s the smoke from? Mercer Meadows closed for prescribed burning

What’s the smoke from? Mercer Meadows closed for prescribed burning

by Community Contributor

The Pole Farm, Reed Bryan Farm and Hunt House regions of Mercer Meadows will be closed to the public beginning Wednesday, March 8, until further notice, for prescribed burning. The prescribed burn that had been scheduled for Feb. 14 was postponed. The New Jersey Forest Fire Service has determined that the weather conditions on March 8 will be safe and suitable for prescribed burning. Rosedale Park will remain open. For your safety, please observe all closure signage posted at parking lots and on the trails.

The fire will be lit, monitored and managed by Forest Fire Service officials who have undergone rigorous training and are experienced in conducting safe and effective prescribed burns. Specific conditions must be met in order to burn, including temperature, relative humidity, and wind speed and direction. All appropriate safety measures and precautions will be taken by those performing the burn, including having a contingency plan. While the burn is in progress and until the Section Warden has deemed the fire out, there will be law enforcement and fire personnel, equipment and vehicles present at Mercer Meadows and surrounding areas. 

Forest Fire Service officials and Mercer County Park Commission staff will be on site and actively monitoring the burn site until it is determined the park is safe to reopen to the public. Local police and fire departments have been made aware of the activities.  

In the days following the prescribed burn, it is normal to see smoldering and smoking logs and debris. If you believe fire is a threat, call 1-877-WARNDEP. Once the park is reopened, park users are encouraged to please stay on the trails. 

For thousands of years, fire has been an active part of the New Jersey landscape.  Fires caused by natural conditions, lightning strikes, or fires intentionally set by Native Americans shaped the ecological communities present in our state today.  With the current lack of intermittent fire, many of the species that evolved with this disturbance have suffered. Properly conducted prescribed burns can replace the natural fire disturbance that was historically a piece of the New Jersey natural lands. Fire encourages native seed germination, reduces invasive plant pressure, and cycles nutrients into the soil; these effects all aid in increasing habitat quality and diversity, while promoting forest regeneration and grassland establishment.  

While managing invasive species and promoting habitat regeneration and enhancement is an important component of the burn plan for Mercer Meadows, the Park Commission anticipates the burn to have additional benefits such as reducing hazardous fuel loads to prevent unplanned, higher-intensity wildfires. Prescribed burns have also been successful in reducing tick and insect pest populations. In addition to the Park Commission, land managers throughout the State have been using this management tool for its ecological benefits and to reduce the chance of unplanned forest fires. 

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