PETERSBURG - There is no shortage of images and commentary about the devastating wildfires ravaging the West Coast.
Thus, a Sept. 23 briefing, organized by several organizations, including Upper Township’s Green Team, on wildfire resiliency, in New Jersey, was timely, and offered abundant information for communities to better manage wildfires.
Bill Brash, New Jersey Fire Safety Council, explained the “sustainable suite” of tools that allow “fire-wise communities” to stay safe.
“Our partners include fire departments with their ‘ready-set-go’ programs, municipal fire safety councils, and a variety of non-profit organizations, such as Audubon clubs, and we are all working together and individually to procure grants and other funding to implement fire safety programs,” explained Brash.
According to Brash, New Jersey, along with other states throughout the nation, has a long history of risk from wildfires.
Recent funding for the council, from the U.S. Forest Service, allowed the creation of an interactive wildfire risk assessment to reduce fuel loads through prescribed burns, including expanding such burns on private lands, which are safe and effective, Brash explained.
“We are extremely fortunate that here, in New Jersey, our firefighters have a high reputation and are respected for their knowledge and experience," said Brash.
He noted several state firefighters went to help battle the wildfires in California, Oregon, Wyoming, Nevada, and Montana.
"In our state, we take measurements to gauge fire dangers two times every day from fire watch towers, so we keep a very close eye on any dangerous situation,” he added.
To complement Brash’s presentation, Dave Chiddenton, Office of Emergency Management, Waterford Township, in Camden County, offered his insights into wildfire prevention.
Representing a community within Wharton State Forest, New Jersey’s largest state forest, Chiddenton noted, “It’s essential that municipalities support, through appropriate ordinance measures, managing fire outbreaks. In addition, with people having more leisure time, they are in the forests more and more, and these recreational activities are related to a high percentage of the causes of fires.”
Chittendon provided examples of how people might not realize how they contribute to a fire outbreak, even in their homes.
“We have seen occasions of propane tanks being stored next to wood piles in enclosed garages. This is an extremely dangerous situation. Gutters filled with dry leaves, also, are extremely combustible and can quickly lead to fire catastrophe,” explained Chittendon.
The final speaker, Lauren Skowronski, Sustainable New Jersey, discussed the importance of communication.
“It’s critical for every community to have a plan to get residents informed, consistently send out notifications, and have a database with vulnerable populations, such as those who are disabled and include the pets that live with them. A good way to make sure everyone stays informed on a regular basis is to include materials in the same mailings as tax bills since everyone needs to open those envelopes,” she said.
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