Fires that spark Monday could quickly get out of control

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Any fires that develop Monday could quickly get out of control and become difficult to contain at most of the Jersey Shore, forecasters say.

The National Weather Service has issued “Red Flag Warning” advising of an enhanced risk of wildfire spread this afternoon.

The risk area includes generally half of New Jersey south of Interstate I-195, including the Shore counties of Ocean, Atlantic, and Cape May.

“The combination of lowering fuel moisture, low relative humidity, and gusty winds may contribute to the enhanced spread of fires,” according to the warning, which remains in effect until 8 p.m. Monday.

West winds at 15 to 25 miles per hour will gust up to 30 miles per hour, and the relative humidity will drop down to as low as 25 percent, the warning states.

A briefing from the New Jersey Forest Fire Service advises that vegetation is drying despite the recent rain. According to the service, fire towers are staffed throughout the region Monday, and two water tankers and a helicopter are ready to respond.

“It is extremely important that the public understand that a moment of carelessness can cause a wildfire that puts lives and homes at risk,” State Firewarden Gregory S. McLaughlin said in a recent news release.

“Although March was rainy and snowy, conditions change rapidly. This time of year, warmer and windy weather dries out forests quickly, which creates conditions more prone to rapid growth of a wildfire, particularly in the Pinelands.”

An investigation into a wildfire that burned nearly 900 acres of the Penn State Forest in Burlington County last week is ongoing.

As Smokey Bear says, “Only you can prevent wildfires.” Here are some tips from him.