NEW JERSEY FOREST FIRES.
Many persons supposed that the annual waste of New Jersey’s forest resources from fires was being greatly lessened under the influence of an aroused public sentiment and recent remedial legislation. But the latest figures are discouraging. The total area burned over last year was 85,046 acres, and the total damage done amounted to $305,744.50. This is almost double the loss sustained from forest fires in 1902. The most extensive and destructive fires were in the southern part of the State. In Atlantic county 24,700 acres were burned, at a loss of $75,205. In Burlington there were 21,925 acres, and the loss, $107,340. In Cumberland the acreage burned was 8,265, and the damage, $17,342; Cape May, 2,720 acres, loss, $13,985; Gloucester, 1,055 acres, loss. $4,104; Morris, 4,525 acres, loss, $23,921; Ocean, 9,123 acres, loss, $18,251; Passaic, 1,105 acres, loss, $3432; Salem, 2,040 acres, loss, $7,430; Sussex, 8,900 acres, loss, $30,225. Farmers burning brush, grass, etc., caused fires that swept over 49497 acres, and did damage to the amount of $169494, while fires from locomotives caused a loss of $79,658. I his is criminal waste, because it could he prevented by the exercise of a little energy and care and the expenditure of a little money. The State has enacted laws which encourage the local governments to adopt measures for fighting forest fires. The townships under these acts have power to appoint a fire marshal and appropriate money for fighting fires. The State doubles the appropriation made by the township up to $100 for the township and $200 for the State, making $300 available for preventing and extinguishing forest fires in such townships as have accepted the provisions of the law. The law also provides for an investigation, by justices of the peace, of the origin of fires upon the application of ten freeholders and for punishing those who are responsible for such fires by fines not exceeding $1,000 or imprisonment for three years, or both. A few stem examples made of those whose carelessness and recklessness cause these devastating fires would tend to stop this wholesale destruction, and if the State’s new and wise policy of forest cultivation and development is to he successfully prosecuted, it is absolutely necessary that an end be put to these yearly ravaging fires. That it can be done, is proved by the experience of Prussia, Bavaria, Austria, Saxony and other European countries. Bavaria has 2,000,000 acres of State forest, seventyfive per cent, of which is coniferous. The average yearly acreage burned over is 200 acres, or one acre in 13,000, causing a loss of $1,200. Compare this record with New Jersey, which has about the same extent of forest land. The State geologist, who reports officially on the subject, thinking that the failure of the municipalities in South Jersey to take advantage of the proffered State aid, and the general indifference to destructive fires that is shown are responsible for the neglect of forest cultivation. Under present conditions, he says, there is practically no incentive to the forest land owner in the pine belt to do anything towards improving his holdings, since there is almost a certainly that, even if he himself takes all due precautions, fires started by his careless neighbor or in the adjoiningtownship will destroy his timber before it is ready for market.