If you’re in Mercer County today, and you’re seeing smoke, you probably don’t have to panic. The New Jersey Forest Fire Service is conducting "prescribed burns" in Mercer Meadows on Monday (February 24), they say.

Some PST listeners have reported seeing the smoke miles away from Mercer Meadows, which is located in Lawrence Township. With a southwest wind, it's been seen in several areas today.

Prescribed burns help reduce the risk of forest fires before the prime wildfire season (which ramps up in April). Fallen leaves, branches and twigs are abundant and the increase in temperature (and low humidity) creates an increased risk of forest fires.

It is typical during the time of the year for the Forest Fire Service to use handheld torches to set smaller fires to burn away fallen leaves, pine needles, branches, etc. from the forest floor. These burns are monitored by fire officials, and of course, they depend on the weather at the time for safety.

If you are in doubt about the source of any smoke or fire that you’re seeing, do not hesitate to reach out to officials. You can call 9-1-1 or 1-877-WARN-DEP (877-927-6337).

“Prescribed burning during the growing season is a unique and innovative new management practice that has never before been implemented here,” the state’s Firewarden Greg McLaughlin says. ”This is the result of the recently signed legislation known as the Prescribed Burn Act, which has authorized the Forest Fire Service to use prescribed fire for habitat management as well as to reduce fuels.”