It's All About the Pine Barrens!

Fire in the Pines - May 15 - 16, 2007
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May 15 "BLOG"

May 16 "BLOG"

May 17 "BLOG" - After the Fire

MAY 17 PHOTOS - The Day After the Rain

MAP OF EVACUATION AREAS (all areas are now safe)
Courtesy of Alex Seise

May 15 Photos

The photos below were taken on May 15th from West Bay Ave near Route 72 in Barnegat NJ. News 12 NJ states 2,500 acres have already been affected, that the fire may have started at the Warren Grove Gunnery Range off Route 539, and has reached Stafford Forge. It is warm and windy today, with no rain forecast until possibly tomorrow, which is hindering firefighters.



May 16 Photos Below
(Click on photos for larger view)

The above photo was taken at about 1:00p.m. on May 16 from my rear yard, which is about 1/2 mile west of the Garden State Parkway.

This photo was taken at about 1:30p.m. May 16, showing Horizons Adult Community on the south side of West Bay Ave. in Barnegat.

Southern Ocean Community Hospital, located on Route 72 & Nautilus Drive, earlier today. This photo was taken looking southeast.

More May 16 Photos

PINEYPOWER's Blog of the Fire

May 15, 2007
7:35p.m. I received reports that Pinewood Estates and much of Fawn lakes, both adult communities on Route 72, were evacuated. 12,000 acres have burned so far.

8:55p.m. I live off West Bay Ave., a half mile west of the Garden State Parkway, in Barnegat. I tried to leave and go east for a scheduled meeting, but the road is blocked off. Westbound traffic is being diverted to Lighthouse Drive and I'm guessing traffic from Route 72 Westbound is being diverted to Nautilus Drive in Stafford, then to east on W. Bay Ave. in Barnegat. The eastbound lane is gridlocked as well, but some kind soul let me through.

It was eerily quiet, and many people - mature adults - were walking west on the road. I stopped one couple, who told me they left their car on the Parkway because it was gridlocked, and were walking home to get their dog. At that point I decided my pets were more important, and attempted to turn around, and had a State Trooper yelling at me as I did. I felt bad but they have their hands full, so please try to cooperate with them! As I write this, sirens are still wailing from time to time, but the wind seems to have died down a bit.

10:00p.m. Things have quieted down. My sources tell me Horizons Adult Community was evacuated, but Pheasant Run was not. In my opinion, I think that at least for now, all is ok. Both are located on W. Bay Ave. in Barnegat, just a short distance from my own home.

Local information is limited at this hour, but 100.1 WJRZ FM is trying to keep everyone updated. I walked to W. Bay Ave., and it's no longer gridlocked, but general detours are still being made. It seemed like Police were permitting local residents to return home.

10:30p.m. For the first time today, I can smell smoke. At last report, the fire was only 10% contained. It's alarming that we have no information at this time as to containment, evacuations, etc., other than occasional reports from 100.1FM. I tuned into Fox Philadelphia on my tv, and they're talking about a "Fish and Flush" toilet bowl, while a forest fire rages in Southern New Jersey. WJRZ is still my main source of information right now. At least the wind has died down to almost nothing, although the smell of smoke is getting stronger.

11:30p.m. I drove west on W. Bay Ave. The road is still closed at Route 72. The smoke is much stronger than this afternoon when I took the photos, and gets worse as one travels towards Route 72, but the wind has died down, which may be a factor. I did not see any orange glows indicative of fire, so I'm feeling better, in spite of the smokey smell that's permeating everything. The sirens have stopped wailing, so I'm hoping the fire is being contained by our gallant forest fire fighters.

NJ Channel 12 has reports on Comcast Channel 62, but I'm not sure how updated it is. Keep tuned to WJRZ 100.1.

Midnight - The air is very still, but the smell of smoke seems stronger. Apparently, a flare from an F16 at the Warren Grove gunnery range caused the fire. Ocean Acres west of Breakers Drive has been evacuated...a total of 2,500 homes have been evacuated, according to NJ12. Fortunately, no injuires have been reported.

May 16

7:45a.m. - Officials report that 13,500 acres have burned so far. Go to (defunct link) to view photos taken about 10p.m. last night, accross Route 72 from the WAWA and the Stafford Diner. It is a controlled back burn. Photos Courtesy of "Nick", who lives in that area.

Map of general area of fire: west of the GSP, south of Route 72 and north of Route 539 (Whiting Rd.)

Click map to enlarge

11:00a.m. - I just drove to Route 72 and Nautilus, where Southern Ocean Community Hospital is located. It's extremely hazy, but I did not see any smoke in the immediate area. I did see evidence of the control burn on the south side of Route 72.

I was just told that fire has sprung up further west on 72, across from the WaWa, and the store is closing, and the immediate area is being evacuated. I have been told that Route 72 is again backed up.

12:45p.m. - TV12 reports that two homes at "Brighton at Barnegat" have been destroyed and more damaged, but there have been no reported injuries. Latest reports have the fire 30% contained, but there is great concern over the increasing wind.

Over 1,000 brave men and women have responded to this fire, mostly volunteers, from all over the State. We owe much to them. The next time you see a firefighter, local or State police officer, first aider, or one of the many volunteers who risk their lives to protect you, please say "Thanks". And during this emergency, please cooperate with them!

I just received notice that Route 72 is once again closed from Lighthouse Drive (or the GSP) westward but unsure of the end of the closure at this time.

2:00p.m. - Traffic is again backed up on W. Bay Ave., eastbound. It looks like traffic is being redirected from Route 72 to Nautilus Drive, and then east on W. Bay to either Route 9 or the GSP.

2:30p.m. My sources tell me that Mirage, Pheasant Run and Heritage Point are being evacuated. Route 72 is closed at Doc Cramner Boulevard; apparently no one can even get on the Parkway. Another source told me fire was as close as a half mile from Recovery Road in Stafford Twp. Right now, I'm seeing black ashes for the first time in my own yard. I notice that the birds are feeding heavily in the feeders outside, as if in preparation for flight.

4:00p.m. - This may be my last report for some time. I heard evacuation commands on other streets, and expect mine soon. I've heard RUMORS that the Ocean Acres area of Barnegat has been evacuated. Sirens are wailing once again.

5:00p.m - Southern Ocean Medical Center has NOT been evacuated. There are ambulances on standby but no action is being taken at this time. Things have quieted down suddenly; no more sirens or loudspeakers. Horizons, Heritage Bay and Pheasant Run have been evacuated, from what I understand; but I've heard conflicting reports on Mirage.

Thanks to everyone who has emailed or posted a message to thank me for my makeshift Blog. I'm glad I can be of help to those of you who aren't getting many details. I'll keep it going as long as I can.

6:00p.m. - We're supposed to evacuate, but West Bay Ave. is gridlocked in both directions. Right now, the sky is getting black; I hope it's the storm approaching and not a smoke cloud. The Parkway is presently open, but may close from Toms River to Atlantic City if smoke impairs visibility.

6:50p.m. - IT'S RAINING!!!

8:55p.m. - It's still raining steadily. The air smells of wet, charred pine, and it smells divine. I feel confident that the danger has passed.

Again, enough cannot be said for all the brave people who fought this stubborn fire, and all the behind-the scenes people that have done so much for their fellow humans. Thanks to all of you - you know who you are.

MAY 17

11:30a.m. - The fire is over 70% contained. The air outside has no smell of fire, just the scent of fresh spring air in the Pine Barrens after a rain. All roads are open. Our firefighters aren't done yet, due to possible flareups of smoldering trees, but the threat to homes is about over. Fortunately, there were no injuries reported, but both Pinewood Estates and Brighton at Barnegat suffered damage, with reported five homes totally destroyed. Thanks to the firefighters of so many surrounding communities volunteering many grueling hours, most homes were saved. If anyone can supply me with a list of the towns that sent help, please EMAIL it to me!

2:45p.m. - I just returned from a perimeter ride around the forest fire area (W. Bay Ave., (C.R.544) to W. on Route 72, Left on Cedar Bridge/Warren Grove Road, and Left (south) on Route 539, then North on the Parkway and West on Route 72.Along the way, I was amazed at the amount of controlled back burn that was done, and how close to several large homes and horse farms it was. This back burn saved hundreds, maybe thousands of homes that otherwise would have been swallowed up by the fire.

I cannot emphasize enough how vitally important controlled burning is, both to the survival of our beloved homes and to our beautiful Pine Barrens. The New Jersey Forest Fire Service must be commended for their efforts throughout the year, from late Autumn through Spring when they strive to perform the controlled burns. Please support them in any way you can!

I was relieved to see that the Village of Warren Grove was untouched, and the famous Lucille's was packed as usual with diners! As the homes dwindled, I neared the area of the major fire, and was saddened to find charred remains as far as the eye could see, and fire also burned at least part of the West Penn Pygmy forest. (photos to follow)

I spoke with Felix Martinez, the NJ Bureau Chief of NBC 4, who was with a cameraman filming the devastation. He told me that Lucille's staff had kept them well fed during the ordeal. Kudos to Lucille - Pineys are the BEST!

NJ Forest Fire trucks were still in and out of Bombing Range Road, so I didn't venture in, not wanting to be in the way. Further south on Rt. 539, I saw more evidence of back burn, but it's possible the fire was that far south.

Back on Route 72 in Stafford Twp., I began to see back burn west of the Parkway, with what looked like had been occasional flare-ups of the fire. The only evidence of current fire I could see was some white smoke (a good thing) south of Route 72. I couldn't see much of Brighton or Pinewood from the road; I'm guessing the damage was done in the rear of this adult community, away from the highway.

Please check back in about an hour, when I should have photos of the fire posted.

4:00p.m. - Photos of the aftermath are now up.

In spite of the devastation, fire is the main way the Pitch Pines (pinus rigida) regenerate. The heat forces the cones open, and seeds are then disbursed. (see photo on next page) The charred ground supplies nutrients, and the new-found sunshine, previously blocked by towering oaks, provides light for growth. Soon this alien-looking 17,000+ acres will be home to sprouting pines and some of the burned trees will have pine needles sprouting from their trunks. The forest floor will see new growth of various plants, some of which may be rare or endangered species that will now thrive with the sunlight.

So the cycle continues.This is the magic of nature.

I have been informed eric Eric of Ocean Acres that the white smoke I reported seeing on Thursday was that of the mulch / compost pile smoldering at the recycling center on Recovery Road.

MAY 19

Now that the fire is over, the controversy over the bombing range is sure to grow. Personally, I'm "on the fence" about it - where else can training take place in such a wide open area on the east coast? In today's world, I feel a bit more comfortable knowing our forces are stationed close enough to defend our immediate shores. On the other hand, the population in the area has increased substantially on the perimeter of the Pine Barrens over the past 5-10 years, and the "incidents" that have occurred are quite unsettling. It seems that at a minimum, more stringent safety regulations must be enforced, but I don't have any knowledge of military air procedures.


Go to photos of THE AFTERMATH May 17, 2007

Photos below were taken May 16, 2007

These photos were taken on Route 72 in Stafford Township, on May 16, the second day of the fire. The firefighters were tending a flareup across from the WaWa, which at the time these photos were taken, had been evacuated.
These photos were taken looking west on Route 72. Photos courtesy Tanner Barrett of Ocean Acres in Stafford Twp.
The following photos were taken this afternoon (May 16) from Ocean Acres, and the Route 72 vicinity, west of the Garden State Parkway.

Looking south from Route 72 near the hospital

A helicopter with a drop bucket full of water

Taken near Doc Cramner Blvd. Courtesy Erik Stromborn



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