SHAMONG, N.J. - Everyone can see the horrific images coming from the West Coast of the deadly wildfires, reducing homes and everything in their path.
Even here, on the East Coast, there’s been a haze in the sky from all the smoke.
The images present a question – how at risk is the Delaware Valley for wildfires?
“We put the deck gun on service and we saved our own rear ends,” said John Smith.
When John Smith and Paul Miller get together to tell firefighting war stories, those listening should pack a lunch. They’ve been fighting forest fires 50 plus years.
“And the sister company yelled out, ‘We don’t have no water!’ I ran back in the woods and here the fire had come and burned the hose right in half. So, they didn’t have any water,” Smith added.
Fighting forest fires is deadly serious. The haze covering the sun for the last few days comes courtesy of wildfires burning in California and elsewhere. No rain, low humidity and no access to some areas are all factors. But so, apparently, is a complete lack of forest management.
“Controlled burns do happen in New Jersey. But, in California, my understanding is that they do virtually nothing in terms of managing the forest,” stated Paul Miller.
He’s exactly right and forester Bob Williams explained well-intentioned overprotection of forests in California – lack of management and controlled burns – have made even small fires hard to guard.
“Don’t touch it. Because, if you touch it, that’s bad. That’s not natural. And, eliminate fire? This is what you get. You see what we get now on a large scale in this country,” Williams remarked.
Mr. Williams pointed out an area his company contracted to cut down some pines. It reduces stress on the ones that remain. It makes for a stronger overall forest. And, keeps the forest manageable.
“We have a university across the street. We have homes behind these trees. You can’t let a fire come in here and do what it did 500 years ago. So, in order to find that balance, we need science,” Williams stated.
Asked if a California wildfire could happen here, Williams replied of course. The fires are part of the natural cycle. And, Shamong firefighters acknowledged with the dew point and thermometer right, anything can happen.
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