Weird Weather Watch: Wildfire in New Jersey, Started by the Military

| Wed May 16, 2007 3:28 PM EDT

New Jersey officials called a wildfire begun yesterday afternoon by an F-16's flare "one of the larger fires we've had for quite a few years." That's saying something. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection's website, which lists historically significant wildfires, shows an increasing frequency of major fires since the 1990s. As it turns out, flares dropped in military exercises have caused more than one. Careless smokers have been arrested for starting fires—will military pilots face the same punishment?

An additional note on the fires currently burning in Florida and Georgia: Not only is fire ravaging a historically huge swath of Georgia's landscape, but people with respiratory illnesses were told to stay inside today. Add their lost productivity and potential illnesses to the tally of the cost of global warming. On the Florida side of the border, flames have already destroyed more than half that state's yearly average of acres destroyed. (The current fire covers 120,000 acres; a representative from the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services told me the state loses about 200,000 acres a year.)