Wildfire protection plan is presented

The Tabernacle Sun

With the threat of wildfires constantly looming, Tabernacle Township partnered with the New Jersey Forest Fire Service to devise a community wildfire protection plan.

At a workshop meeting on May 13, township administrator Doug Cramer, as well as Tom Gerber and Sam Moore of the New Jersey Forest Fire Service, presented the plan with the goal of raising community awareness about the risks of forest fires.

The township was recently divided into grids to determine and prioritize what areas are most at risk. The study showed that the sections east of Carranza Road and south of Route 532 present the most danger either starting or during a forest fire. These areas are potentially hazardous because they offer a lot of open ground as well as trees and brush that can fuel a wildfire.

“The biggest threat to Tabernacle as a community is forest fire,” Mayor Stephen Lee IV said. “We as residents have to take what is being talked about here very seriously.”

One of the main aspects of the plan is clearing and cutting back the canopy above Carranza and other roads in the township. Trees that extend into or over roadways provide an easy path for fires to roam.

Expanding firebreaks is also key to prevent a wildfire from spreading, Cramer said. A firebreak is a gap in vegetation or other combustible material that acts as a barrier to slow or stop the progress of a wildfire. Firebreaks may occur naturally, such as a river or lake, but they can also be man-made, and many also serve as roads, a four-wheel drive trail or a highway.

Cramer believes that, more awareness of evacuation routes, as well as what homeowners can do themselves, will go a long way. Residents will be advised to keep a defensible area around their homes, clear of brush and other debris that can act as fuel for a wildfire.

A vote to enact the resolution will take place at the committee meeting on Tuesday, May 28. The public will have the opportunity to make comments or ask questions about the proposed plan. If approved, the next step will be to apply for a $5,000 state grant to help offset the cost of performing the work. The application for the grant would be completed mid-summer with the hope of seeing the money in the fall.

Both Gerber and Moore said an investment now can go a long way in preventing future devastation. With community outreach already beginning, they hope the next step will be taken so Tabernacle can be spared the destruction of a wildfire.