Firewise Display Now at Jakes Branch County Park
Nestled in the Pinelands of Ocean County, sits Jakes Branch County Park, on a swath of 400 acres that highlights the natural beauty of the area while blending active and passive recreation.
In June 2002, the same swath of land was the scene of one of Ocean County's largest wildfires consuming 1,200 acres of land, destroying a house and consuming many smaller structures on its path of destruction.
Today, Ocean County officials joined with state Forest Fire Service representatives, county fire service representatives, members of the community and the Ocean County Department of Parks and Recreation to unveil a new exhibit highlighting the wildfire of 2002 and emphasizing the importance of being prepared for these events in Ocean County.
"This great exhibit was the hard work of many hands," said Ocean County Freeholder John C. Bartlett Jr., liaison to the Ocean County Department of Parks and Recreation. "We are happy today to call it complete and share it with the public that comes to our visitors' center at Jake's Branch County Park."
The exhibit was funded in part by a federal Firewise Grant administered by the New Jersey State Forest Fire Service. Much of the work was done in-house by county park staff including the painting of the ceiling to floor mural done by Mary Jane Bavais, the county Superintendent of Recreation.
In addition, Parks Department worker Jason Hoger was recognized for advancing the project and bringing it to fruition.
The Ocean County Department of Parks and Recreation created the interactive guided and self guided firewise exhibit that highlights the Jake's Branch Wildfire. The exhibit is housed in the Jake's Branch County Park Interpretive Center, on Double Trouble Road, here.
"From the members of our county staff, to the fire services, this exhibit is a great example of the cooperation agencies have in order to raise awareness and educate the public about wildfires here in Ocean County," Bartlett noted. "The park location is within an area that experienced one of New Jersey's worst wildfires in recent memory.
"In 2002, the Jake's Branch Fire burned 1,200 acres and destroyed one home," Bartlett said. "Additional property damage exceeded $1 million."
The goal of the exhibit which is called "Firewise Living in the Garden State," is to educate the public that the Pine Barrens is considered a fire ecosystem and is prone to large and devastating wildfires.
"In addition we would like to inform our citizens how the fires altered the landscape and negatively impact private property," said Michael Mangum, Director of the Ocean County Department of Parks and Recreation.
The exhibit includes hands-on activities, static displays, outdoor interpretive signs and interactive units.
"This is an exhibit that can be enjoyed by adults and youngsters alike," said Freeholder Director Gerry P. Little. "I am sure school groups will be visiting the center to see this when the new school year starts in September."
Bartlett noted that extinguishing the forest fire of 2002 was also a cooperative effort with the assistance of volunteer fire companies from throughout Ocean County working with the state Forest Fire Service.
"After the first dispatch went out by the state Forest Fire Service, the Pinewald Fire Company under the leadership of Chief George Dohn was first on the scene, followed by the Beachwood Fire Company," Bartlett said. "From those first moments, fire companies responded from around the County to put out a fire that had the potential to do a great deal more damage.
"I want to send the appreciation of the Freeholders to the New Jersey Forest Fire Service and to all those people who participated in this project," Bartlett said. "I know that forest fire season usually begins in March but we need to be prepared throughout the year."