Remembering Black Saturday as New Jersey remains in wildfire season

The lessons learned since Black Saturday helped prevent what could have been more disasters as recent wildfires swept across New Jersey.

Jim Murdoch and Lanette Espy

Apr 21, 2023, 12:58 PM

Updated 455 days ago

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The recent rash of wildfires across the state is an eerie reminder of a tragedy 60 years ago that was known as Black Saturday - the largest wildfire outbreak in the history of the New Jersey Forest Fire Service. No less than 127 wildfires sparked that day under extremely dangerous conditions. Seven people died, including one firefighter.
An unusually warm March and April plus no snowfall combined with days of sunshine and wind are all combined to create a dangerous fire season. New Jersey still has a month left in wildfire season. Risk remains high statewide as a large part of the state remains abnormally dry.
In the past couple of weeks, several wildfires have erupted across the state. Over 150 homes were evacuated when a fire erupted in Manchester. The fire in West Milford fire burned close to a thousand acres. There was also a fire at Bass River State Forest and most recently the Washington Township Burlington County fire that burned 257 acres and threatened 30 homes.
The lessons learned since Black Saturday helped prevent what could have been more disasters. No residents living in these areas were injured and no one lost their home due to the fires. Brush trucks from the forest fire service continue to patrol perimeters of the fires, looking for any flare ups and hot spots as conditions remain extremely dry.

The forest fire service provides the following tips to prevent wildfires:

-Don’t throw cigarettes on the ground.
-Make sure all fires are put out and doused.
-Keep matches away from children.
-Create defensible space around your home.
-Make sure firetrucks can fit in your driveway.
-Carefully use wood stoves and fireplaces.


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