Pinewood Estates Planning Forest Fire Preparedness Event May 6

Apr 19, 2017

Saturday, May 6, is National Wildfire Community Preparedness Day, and the Pinewood Estates mobile home development in Barnegat Township is holding a special event as it seeks to become a Firewise Community.

Dianne Grockenberger, event coordinator, said activities will take place between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. She said the New Jersey State Forest Fire Service and State Farm will have representatives on hand as volunteers from Pinewood Estates clean out brush from various areas to help reduce the risk of a wildfire. 

“We recently won a $500 grant from State Farm to sponsor this event and to help with becoming a Firewise  Community,” she said. “Ultimately, we are looking for a $5,000 grant with the goal of getting a perimeter around Pinewood Estates which would help reduce the risk of the fire spreading into the community.”

To earn a Firewise designation from the National Wildfire Coordinating Group, communities use a five-step process that includes developing an action plan that guides their residential risk reduction activities, while engaging and encouraging homeowners to become active participants in building a safer place to live.

“This year is especially meaningful in that it is 10 years since the 2007 forest fire that affected Pinewood Estates and Brighton at Barnegat,” said Grockenberg. 

May 15-16, 2007, approximately 17,000 acres burned and forced numerous communities in Barnegat and Stafford townships to evacuate. The massive blaze originated from a flare from an Air National Guard F-16 fighter jet at the Warren Grove Gunnery Range.

Additionally, she noted that this summer will mark the 40th anniversary of the Bass River State Forest fire where four Eagleswood Township firefighters died.

Brighton at Barnegat, which is located next to Pinewood Estates, is also seeking grants en route to a Firewise designation. Coordinating the activities in Brighton is Diane Schlagel.

“I remember watching forest fire coverage on the news,” she said. “When I moved to Brighton, I talked to residents, and I realized that the Firewise program was something we needed.”

The fire made its way into the perimeter of Brighton, destroying three homes and damaging five others.

“Because Pinewood Estates and Brighton have different owners, we can’t go into this together and have to work independently of each other,” said Schlagel. “We’re looking to have a special Firewise event on Saturday, June 10. We need to clean up some wooded areas where there is brush and dead trees.”

Deputy Mayor Frank Caputo said communities, especially those west of the Garden State Parkway, “need to have an understanding and awareness of the wildfire risks.”  He said Four Seasons at Mirage and Horizons at Barnegat have received Firewise designations.

Caputo, who is township committee liaison to the town’s wildfire safety council, said that  because the forest fire occurred 10 years ago, people might be lulled into thinking that they don’t have to be concerned.

 “I don’t like saying this, but it is inevitable that it can happen again, so preparedness plans need to be in place,” he said.

— Eric Englund

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