Barnegat Mayor Pays Tribute to Fire Prevention Specialist John Cowie

Jul 11, 2018

Over the years, Barnegat Township has developed a reputation as being very proactive on wildfire prevention, and Mayor Frank Caputo said that is the lasting legacy of John Cowie, who died on June 12 at age 61.

“Because of his efforts, we were the first community in New Jersey to form a wildfire safety council two years ago,” said Caputo at the July 3 township committee meeting. “He was very dedicated to fire prevention, and I don’t think any of the initiatives we established could have been done without him.”

Caputo, who is township committee liaison to the council, said that in addition to being the Barnegat Volunteer Co.’s fire prevention specialist, Cowie was also outreach coordinator with the New Jersey Forest Fire Service.

Through the forest fire service, five Barnegat communities have received Firewise designations – Four Seasons at Mirage, Pheasant Run, Horizons, Brighton at Barnegat and Pinewood Estates. The communities earned Firewise status by developing projects aimed at slowing or stopping the progress of a wildfire. The developments erected fuel breaks – gaps in vegetation that act as a barrier to slow or stop the progress of a wildfire – and also cleared out underbrush and dead or diseased trees.

In addition, the fire company was once ranked second in the country by a national program, “Ready, Set, Go,” which helps prepare communities in developing initiatives to halt the spread of forest fires. Cowie was Barnegat’s “Ready, Set, Go” chairman. The program gets its name from the fact that communities first have to take responsibility and prepare long before the threat of a forest fire so homes are ready in case fire breaks out. By “set,” you pack your emergency items and stay aware of the latest news on the fire from the local media, fire department and public safety. “Go” means not just evacuate, but follow your personal wildfire action plan so that firefighters can best maneuver their resources to combat the fire.

Four years ago, Barnegat was one of 18 communities in the nation that was selected to participate in a federal Fire Adapted Communities program. The pilot program is coordinated by the U.S. Forest Service, along with Nature Conservancy, Watershed Research Training Center and the Fire Learning Network. The program stressed educating residents about wildfire prevention.

Caputo said all these programs fall under the category of “lessons learned from the fire,” referring to the May 2007 wildfire that destroyed more than 15,000 acres of pinelands and caused parts of Barnegat to be evacuated.

“Barnegat’s answer was a concerted effort to meet with and include all groups affected, spread the word neighbor to neighbor, and draw on the strength of existing organizations’ experience in this historically fire-prone landscape,” he said. E.E.

Comments (0)
If you wish to comment, please login.