Barnegat Fire Safety Council May Add More Members

Apr 13 2016

Barnegat Township Committeeman Frank Caputo said he was encouraged about the prospects for the recently formed Wildfire Safety Council, which held its initial meeting on April 18. It will meet again on Thursday, June 9.

Created by a recently adopted ordinance, the panel aside from Caputo includes John Cowie, the fire company’s fire prevention specialist; police Lt. Keith Germain, who is also emergency management coordinator; John Hess, township engineer; and Rico Fischer, construction code enforcement officer.

Also serving are three residents from wildfire risk developments: Nancy Reid, Horizons at Barnegat; James Mihalik, Pheasant Run; and Charlie Thomas, Four Seasons at Mirage. Those residential communities have all received “Firewise” designations through the New Jersey State Forest Fire Service, which encourages communities to develop projects to slow or stop the progress of a wildfire.

“The primary focus of this council will be education and prevention,” said Caputo. “People need to have an understanding and awareness of the wildfire risks. Fortunately, the town has already gotten a jump on this through the Firewise programs, but we can always do more.”

Caputo said it is possible the council could have more members.

“At the meeting, there were people from the Brighton at Barnegat and Pinewood Estates (mobile home) communities,” said the committeeman. “They were ground zero during the (the latest) forest fire, so they certainly are aware of how parts of our town are susceptible to forest fires.”

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

“I was on the township committee at that time, and that taught us how wildfire management is extraordinarily important,” said Mayor John Novak. “We have so many people living in the Pinelands, so we have to be on the forefront of education and awareness.”

Caputo said he is looking to have a special council meeting where they could perhaps get speakers from the New Jersey Forest Fire Service and other agencies.

“The more people we can get involved from the community, the better off we will be,” he said.

— Eric Englund