August 13, 2000 |
This year's forest-fire season in the West may be the worst in 30 years. By now, an area larger than Connecticut - 4 million acres - has burned, and more is likely to come before the fire season peaks in the weeks ahead. These fires are not random acts of nature. They are the result of government policy decisions that have backfired. Washington decision makers lost a gamble that the weather would remain wet enough and the winds low enough to avoid looming catastrophic fire. The current wave of devastating fires has resulted from an unnatural buildup of dry, highly flammable excess wood.
August 6, 2000 |
Few, if any, politicians have a record of service to the public that can compare in duration and bravery with Carville "Buck" Benton's. The Waterford resident, who was honored recently by the Camden County freeholders, spent 61 years as a volunteer fireman, saving lives, homes and fighting forest fires. "He has set an example for me and others to look up to," said James Jankowski, the current fire chief in Waterford, and a friend of Benton's for more than 20 years. "If I could accomplish a third of what he did, I would be a better person," Jankowski said.
May 23, 2000 |
Do you like to play with matches? Does fire fascinate you? If so, maybe you ought to apply for a job with the Park Service or the Forest Service. You may not be aware that the recent wildfire in Los Alamos, N.M., is a predictable result of federal forest management and a harbinger of things to come. Federal forest management has allowed dead and dying amounts of wood to accumulate in forests, increasing the likelihood of severe fires, threatening the lives and property of people that live near the forest and damaging the ecological health of forests.
August 9, 1999 |
After years of searching for the coolest place in America, I've come to the conclusion New Jersey's Pine Barrens takes the cake, the quirkiest place in our nation. For example, herpetologists reported recently that a housing development under construction in Evesham is habitat for an endangered species of rattlesnake. Who could have imagined a rare wild animal lurking in Philadelphia's suburbs, waiting in the grass to startle unsuspecting soccer moms? An endangered species of another sort can also be found in the Pine Barrens - outlaw motorcycle gangs.
August 8, 1999 |
Perched in his tower, 85 feet above the ground, Sean Morgant looked out over a rolling green sea of treetops and saw a black puff drifting skyward. Morgant spun his Osborne Fire Finder and locked the gray smear in the crosshairs. Then he grabbed his radio and sounded the alarm. Fire in the Pine Barrens. This summer, there has been a lot of fire in the Pinelands and in forests across the region. Parched by heat and drought, the woods have become tinderboxes. In July, New Jersey had 441 brush- and forest fires, which consumed more than 1,000 acres of forest and field.
June 5, 1999 |
Crisp, dry leaves, twigs and sage are acting like fire fodder along the floor of New Jersey's million acres of Pine Barrens, turning small sparks into raging flames and providing fuel for arsonists. Fire officials yesterday announced a manhunt for a suspect who on Monday ignited nearly 400 acres in Woodland Township. Those deliberate fires, and dozens of accidental fires, have encouraged officials to take action. Central Jersey's Forestry Service announced yesterday that campfires were restricted to demarcated stone-and-steel fire circles throughout the wooded areas of Burlington, Ocean, Middlesex and Monmouth Counties.
July 7, 1998 |
Last year at this time, one of the worst Julys in memory, someone dropped a match in Berkeley Township, Ocean County. The scrub caught fire, the pitch pines went up. The flames moved so quickly that residents of a senior-citizens complex fled their homes on foot. Seven hundred acres burned. Which is why, on a recent Monday, fire observer Bill Love sat in a tower 80 feet over Lebanon State Forest. Lying near him were the tools of his trade: a radio, binoculars, a box of stale Cheerios.
August 1, 1997 |
Joe Schwenger, an 18-year-old Weekstown volunteer firefighter, joined the New Jersey Forest Fire Service this week so he could take on his first forest fire, a blaze that burned about 1,800 acres of the Wharton State Forest in northernmost Atlantic County. "When you're going through flames all around you, this is it," Schwenger said as he took a quick break Wednesday while the tank in the fire truck he was riding in was refilled with water. "It's a thrill. " Yesterday, the thrill was gone for firefighters, but it meant they had done their job against the biggest New Jersey forest fire in two years.
July 31, 1997 |
Above the charred trees at the edge of Wharton State Forest, helicopters dumped giant red buckets of water and foam-like fire retardant on the 1,700-acre wildfire that broke out here Tuesday. All was not well at historic Batsto Village, however, where division warden Frank Pallante stared at the giant cloud of smoke that grew larger still. The wind direction had just shifted, throwing the firefighting operation's gains into jeopardy. Despite all the technological advances that have been made since a century ago, when forest dwellers beat out blazes with strips of cedar trees, Mother Nature still holds the upper hand in the battle against wildfires.
July 27, 1997 |
As towering flames raced toward the Holiday City Berkeley retirement community in Ocean County, an elderly man climbed to the roof of his one-story house and aimed a garden hose at the burning forest. "New York City Fire Department," he shouted down at the police officer trying to coax him off the roof. "I'll fight this. " Firefighters who battled the raging forest fire that burned up 800 acres of Pinelands on July 19 and 20 told and retold the story, amazed that a resident who lived a few feet away from the forest was so unaware of its dangers.