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WILDFIRES

The recent fires in the western States, the 1994 Tyee fire in Washington, the 1993 Southern California fire siege, and the 1991 Oakland Hills fires are examples of the growing fire threat which results from the Wildland/Urban Interface.  The Wildland/Urban interface is defined as the area where structures and other human development meet or intermingle with undeveloped wildland or vegetative fuels.

New Jersey Pine Barrens    Wildland/Urban interface fire losses are not exclusively experienced in the west.  Nearly every State has experienced wildland/urban interface fire losses including the Pine Barrens in New Jersey, the Palmetto in Florida, and Jack Pine in the Lake States.  Since 1985 approximately 9,000 homes have been lost to urban/wildland interface fires across the United States.

Be Prepared

The threat of wildland fires for people living near wildland areas or using recreational facilities in wilderness areas is real. Advance planning and knowing how to protect buildings in these areas can lessen the devastation of a wildland fire.

 Individuals living within the wildland/urban interface can take steps to reduce the risk of fire losses.  For example, you can create a safety zone around your home or business by doing the following:

  • Stack firewood at least 100 feet away and uphill from your home.

  • Clear combustible material within 20 feet.

  • Mow grass regularly.

  • Rake leaves, dead limbs and twigs.  Clear all flammable vegetation.

  • Remove leaves and rubbish from under structures.

  • Thin a 15-foot space between tree crowns, and remove limbs within 15 feet of the ground.

  • Remove vines from the walls of the home.

  • Remove dead branches that extend over the roof.

  • Prune tree branches and shrubs within 15 feet of a stovepipe or chimney outlet.

  • Ask the power company to clear branches from power lines.

    The risk of fire losses can be reduced through use of flame retardant building materials on homes and businesses.  For example, clay tile used on the roof can keep floating cinders from igniting the structure.  Also, fire retardant siding can be used to keep fires from quickly spreading.

BEFORE

Learn and teach safe fire practices.

  • Build fires away from nearby trees or bushes.
  • Always have a way to extinguish the fire quickly and completely.
  • Never leave a fire--even a cigarette--burning unattended.

Contact the West Milford Building Department at 973-728-2780 to obtain local building codes and weed abatement ordinances for structures built near wooded areas.

Use fire-resistant materials when building, renovating, or retrofitting structures.

Create a safety zone to separate the home from combustible plants and vegetation.

  • Stone walls can act as heat shields and deflect flames.
  • Swimming pools and patios can be a safety zone.

Check for fire hazards around home.

  • Install electrical lines underground, if possible. Keep all tree and shrub limbs trimmed so they don't come in contact with the wires.
  • Prune all branches around the residence to a height of 8 to 10 feet. Keep trees adjacent to buildings free of dead or dying wood and moss.
  • Remove all dead limbs, needles, and debris from rain gutters.
  • Store combustible or flammable materials in approved safety containers and keep them away from the house.
  • Keep chimney clean.
  • Avoid open burning completely, and especially during dry season.

Install smoke detectors on every level of your home and near sleeping areas.

Make evacuation plans from home and from neighborhood.
Plan several routes in case the fire blocks escape route.

Have disaster supplies on hand

  • Flashlight with extra batteries
  • Portable, battery-operated radio and extra batteries
  • First aid kit and manual
  • Emergency food and water
  • Nonelectric can opener
  • Essential medicines
  • Cash and credit cards
  • Sturdy shoes

Develop an emergency communication plan.  In case family members are separated from one another during a wildland fire (a real possibility during the day when adults are at work and children are at school), have a plan for getting back together.

Ask an out-of-state relative or friend to serve as the "family contact." After a disaster, it's often easier to call long distance. Make sure everyone knows the name, address, and phone number of the contact person.

Fire-Resistant Building Materials

Avoid using wooden shakes and shingles for a roof. Use tile, stucco, metal siding, brick, concrete block, rock, or other fire-resistant materials. Use only thick, tempered safety glass in large windows and sliding glass doors.

Contact the Emergency Management Office at 973-728-2840 or American Red Cross chapter for more information on wildland fires.

 

DURING

Turn on a battery-operated radio to get the latest emergency information.

Remove combustible items from around the house.

  • Lawn and poolside furniture
  • Umbrellas
  • Tarp coverings
  • Firewood

Take down flammable drapes and curtains and close all venetian blinds or noncombustible window coverings.

Take action to protect your home.

  • Close all doors and windows inside your home to prevent draft.
  • Close gas valves and turn off all pilot lights.
  • Turn on a light in each room for visibility in heavy smoke.
  • Place valuables that will not be damaged by water in a pool or pond.
  • If hoses and adequate water are available, leave sprinklers on roofs and anything that might be damaged by fire.

Be ready to evacuate all family members and pets when fire nears or when instructed to do so by local officials.

 

AFTER

Take care when re-entering a burned wildland area. Hot spots can flare up without warning. Check the roof immediately and extinguish any sparks or embers. Check the attic for hidden burning sparks. For several hours afterward, re-check for smoke and sparks throughout the home. If trapped in a Wildland Fire you cannot outrun a fire. Crouch in a pond or river. Cover head and upper body with wet clothing. If water is not around, look for shelter in a cleared area or among a bed of rocks. Lie flat and cover body with wet clothing or soil.

Breathe the air close to the ground through a wet cloth to avoid scorching lungs or inhaling smoke.

 

MITIGATION

Mitigation includes any activities that prevent an emergency, reduce the chance of an emergency happening, or lessen the damaging effects of unavoidable emergencies. Investing in preventive mitigation steps now such as installing a spark arrestor on your chimney, cleaning roof surfaces and gutters regularly, and using only fire resistant materials on the exterior of your home, will help reduce the impact of wildland fires in the future. For more information on mitigation, contact Emergency Management Coordinator Michael Woch.

 

 

Township of West Milford OEM

 

To send email to Emergency Services please click here:  fireoffice@westmilford.org

Mailing Address:  1480 Union Valley Road West Milford NJ 07480

Site location:  13 Edgar Drive West Milford NJ 07480