If you see or smell smoke in Burlington and Mercer counties tonight (March 14), don't panic. We've learned that the New Jersey State Forestry Service is doing some "controlled burning" in our area tonight.

They're expected to be clearing brush in areas of the Pine Barrens, and as we all know smoke (and its smell) can travel quickly across our area. We've seen reports of smoke from Whitehorse Station and other parts of Burlington County tonight.

"Controlled burns" (also called "prescribed burns") are quite common this time year as officials set controlled fires to clear high-risk areas of underbrush and other wildfire risks.

The Forest Fire Service expects to conduct prescribed burning operations on some 35,000 acres statewide this year.

Essentially these burns, which are conducted every March, are meant to keep us safe from wildfires later in the year.

Officials stress that you can call them if you are unsure about any smoky conditions you're witnessing.

When in doubt about the source of smoke or if a fire is part of a prescribed burning operation, call 9-1-1 or 1-877-WARN-DEP (1-877-927-6337).

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