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Hartwig Warns of Active Wildfire Season Ahead

NU Online News Service, April 11, 1:52 p.m. EDT

Wildfires in New Jersey and New York are prompting warnings of an active fire season because of unusually dry conditions along the East coast coupled with record high temperatures in March.

“In 2011, wildfires scorched more than eight million acres across the United States, damaging thousands of homes, businesses and vehicles and causing $855 million in insured losses,” says Robert P. Hartwig, president of the Insurance Information Institute in a statement. “With more than 15,000 temperature records broken in the United States in March 2012 alone, combined with low precipitation and little or no snowpack across much of the nation’s lower 48 states, this year could be very active one for wildfires and brushfires, including parts of the Northeast where such events are relatively uncommon.”

On Monday, wildfires ignited in Southern New Jersey’s Pine Barrens and in Staten Island and Long Island, N.Y. burning thousands of acres. Fortunately, there were no fatalities and only a few injuries involving firefighters.

Reports say about three homes were destroyed by fire in Suffolk County, N.Y. on Long Island where New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo declared a state of emergency. The governor also noted there was also a fire that officials were dealing with in Rockland County.

On Staten Island, the fire was contained to the Fresh Kills landfill. While not threatening any homes, the smoke was dense enough to close a major expressway for a few hours until firefighters got the blaze under control Monday. 

The New York and New Jersey regions are under Red Flag Warning, which means dry conditions make wildfires an ever present danger and outdoor burning should be avoided.

The Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety notes that the danger to property is increased in these areas where people have decided to build near wildfire-prone land.

“People continue to move into areas where they can enjoy nature up close, have more privacy, and take advantage of recreational opportunities and affordable living,” says Julie Rochman, IBHS president and chief executive officer.

Rochman urged property owners to review the Wildfire Retrofit Guide—Mid-Atlantic/Northeast Edition to address different architectural features and create a wildfire resistant landscape. 

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