Aerial view of a portion of New Jersey's Pine Barrens that has been recently developed. Photo credit: Wendy Fulks

Topic: Defensible space / Firewise Type: Meeting / Event

Building Momentum for FAC in South Jersey

Authors: Wendy Fulks

A few weeks ago, I attended Barnegat Township, New Jersey’s annual wildfire preparedness meeting. In addition to giving a presentation on the national FAC effort and the FAC Learning Network, I met many local FAC leaders. Like many other similar meetings I’ve attended, there were participants from local, state and federal agencies, as well as community members and officials and at least one journalist. (You can read his article here.) John Cowie, Barnegat Fire Company’s fire prevention specialist, organized the meeting and served as moderator.

Barnegat Township wildfire preparedness meeting

This year’s Barnegat Township wildfire preparedness meeting attracted a diversity of attendees. Photo credit: John Cowie.

Maureen Brooks (USDA Forest Service) and Shawn Stokes (International Association of Fire Chiefs) gave presentations, as did the New Jersey state forester, Lynn Fleming. I was particularly impressed by the progress updates presented by Firewise neighborhood liaisons. Bill Brash (Mercer County Soil Conservation District) also gave a forward-looking talk and posed the question “What will a New Jersey Fire Adapted Municipality Look Like in the Future?” Attendees also learned about the history of the New Jersey Forest Fire Service and the wildfire history in and around Barnegat Township and Ocean County.

The meeting was well attended and I think everyone went home having learned new things. Group discussions focused on how to accelerate FAC efforts in and around Barnegat Township, and how to best export the Barnegat model to other parts of the state.

Firewise and Ready, Set, Go! are crucial FAC programs for towns located in New Jersey’s Pine Barrens. Also known as “the Pinelands,” this forest covers 1.1 million acres, which is 22 percent of the state. Prior to the Barnegat meeting I received an aerial view of the region, courtesy of the New Jersey Forest Fire Service. I was struck by the number of recent wildfire scars and the proximity of new housing developments (many of them “active adult communities”) to a forest that burns with regularity – underscoring the need for and importance of Barnegat’s ongoing FAC efforts.

Read more about Barnegat’s fire history and successful collaborations on the Forests and Rangelands website.

Thanks to Bill Brash, Greg McLaughlin, John Cowie and others for hosting me and sharing their knowledge.