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Wildfire Danger Levels, Permits, and Restrictions

The New Jersey Forest Fire Service uses two indices to measure and monitor the dryness of forest fuels and the possibility of fire ignitions becoming wildfires. These indices are the National Fire Danger Rating System's "Buildup Index" and the "Keetch-Byram Drought Index." Both indices are used for fire preparedness planning, which includes the following initiatives: campfire and burning restrictions, fire patrol assignments, staffing of fire lookout towers and readiness status for both observation and firefighting aircraft.

Current Fire Danger and Rating Indices


As of December 14, 2020

Fire Danger
Buildup Index
Drought Index
Campfire Restrictions
Agricultural Open Burning Allowed
Northern, NJ


Central, NJ
Southern, NJ



2020 Fire Statistics

Reporting Period


Acres Burned

January 1, 2020 to December 14, 2020



Division A-Northern NJ
Serving Counties: Bergen, Essex, Hudson, Morris,
Passaic, Somerset, Sussex, Warren, Hopewell Township
in Mercer County, Union, Hunterdon,
Middlesex (north of Raritan River)

Division B-Central NJ
Serving Counties:
Burlington, Monmouth, Ocean,
Middlesex (south of the Raritan River),
Mercer County except Hopewell Township

Division C-Southern NJ
Serving Counties:
Atlantic, Camden, Cape May,
Cumberland, Gloucester and Salem

Fire Danger Rating System

Fuels do not ignite readily from small firebrands although a more intense heat source, such as lightning, may start fires in duff or punky wood. Fires in open cured grasslands may burn freely a few hours after rain, but woods fires spread slowly by creeping or smoldering, and burn in irregular fingers. There is little danger of spotting.
Fires can start from most accidental causes, but with the exception of lightning fires in some areas, the number of starts is generally low. Fires in open cured grasslands will burn briskly and spread rapidly on windy days. Timber fires  spread slowly to moderately fast. The average fire is of moderate intensity, although heavy concentrations of fuel, especially draped fuel, may burn hot. Short-distance spotting may occur, but is not persistent. Fires are not likely to become serious and control is relatively easy.
All fine dead fuels ignite readily and fires start easily from most causes. Unattended brush and campfires are likely to escape. Fires spread rapidly and short-distance spotting is common. High-intensity burning may develop on slopes or in concentrations of fine fuels. Fires may become serious and their control difficult unless they are attacked successfully while small.
Very High
Fires start easily from all causes and, immediately after ignition, spread rapidly and increase quickly in intensity. Spot fires are a constant danger. Fires burning in light fuels may quickly develop high intensity characteristics such as long-distance spotting and fire whirlwinds when they bum into heavier fuels.
Fires start quickly, spread furiously, and burn intensely. All fires are potentially serious. Development into high intensity burning will usually be faster and occur from smaller fires than in the very high fire danger class. Direct attack is rarely possible and may be dangerous except immediately after ignition. Fires that develop headway in heavy slash or in conifer stands may be unmanageable while the extreme burning condition lasts. Under these conditions the only effective and safe control action is on the flanks until the weather changes or the fuel supply lessens.

Fire Restriction Rating System

Stage #1
Fires directly on the ground will be prohibited unless in a prepared fire ring. Fires on mineral soil which will not endanger the forest, such as in a gravel pit, may be permitted at the discretion of the Forest Firewarden issuing the permit. A prepared fire ring must be constructed of steel, stone, brick, or concrete with a gravel or masonry base.
Stage #2
All fires in wooded areas will be prohibited unless in an elevated prepared fireplace, elevated charcoal grill or stove using electricity or a liquid or gas fuel. An elevated prepared fireplace must be constructed of steel, stone, brick or concrete with its fire box elevated at least one foot above the ground surface and surrounded by at least a ten feet radius clearance to mineral soil.
Stage #3
All fires in wooded areas will be prohibited unless contained in an elevated stove using only propane, natural gas, gas, or electricity. No charcoal fires are allowed.


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Last Updated: December 14, 2020