At 1:30 P.M. on July 1, 2010, the Mizpah Forest Fire observation tower of the Division C section of the New Jersey Forest Fire Service notified C4 Section Fire Warden Ron Ruggeri of smoke between the Waldeck Tract and Union Road in the City of Vineland in Cumberland County. Ruggeri and other...
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At 1:30 P.M. on July 1, 2010, the Mizpah Forest Fire observation tower of the Division C section of the New Jersey Forest Fire Service notified C4 Section Fire Warden Ron Ruggeri of smoke between the Waldeck Tract and Union Road in the City of Vineland in Cumberland County. Ruggeri and other forest fire units were already working on a five-acre fire in the adjacent City of Millville's industrial park area.
Ruggeri requested that the Mizpah Tower dispatch Forest Fire Units C4A (District Fire Warden Brad Ruggeri), C5 (Section Warden Ken Badger Jr.) and C5A (District Fire Warden Tony Monfredo), who were on patrol, to the area. Cumberland County Emergency Communications also dispatched the City of Vineland Fire Station 5's Engine 53 and Water Tender 5 to Union Road, south of Mays Landing Road.
Ruggeri was informed by the Mizpah tower that the base of the fire was spreading. Hearing this, Ruggeri released C16 (District Fire Warden John Valasek) and MU305, a tractor-and-plow unit, from the Millville fire to respond to the Union Road fire.
The Union Road fire was located on the northern edge of the Peasley Wildlife Management Area, a 30,000-acre tract of forest. Badger, in unit C5, arrived in the area and reported to Ruggeri that five to 10 acres were burning approximately a quarter-mile off Union Road and heading for Union Road. The fire was burning in a cutoff tract of pine and oak mix, making access difficult for the forestry engines.
Ruggeri at this time released units C3 with District Fire Warden Steve Alcorn and C26 with Badger from the Millville fire to respond to Union Road. Ruggeri instructed C5 to backfire along Union Road to hold the fire from extending across the road. There were no homes in the area that would be threatened.
At this time, Ruggeri left one unit, C3A, on the Millville fire and left for the Union Road fire. Upon arriving at the Union Road fire, Ruggeri assumed command and instructed Badger to become the operations officer. C4's crew began backfiring operations along Union Road while MU305 began putting in "anchor" lines and working the left and right flanks. The right flank, burning toward a maple swamp, made the left flank a priority. Ruggeri asked the Mizpah tower to notify C18 and MU309, a large tractor and plow, to report to the Union Road fire and start working the right flank into the Maple Swamp.
Other units sent to the scene were Water Tender C24 and Acting Assistant Division Warden William Donnelly (C9) along with the Cumberland County Fire Police, who closed off Union Road between Mays Landing Road and Route 49.
With the control lines in place, Ruggeri declared the fire contained at 6 P.M. at 20 acres burned. Due to logging operations in the previous years, slash and sawdust piles led to extreme turf conditions.
On day two, July 2, and with the crews still working in heavy turf conditions and with no water available in the area, command requested that the East Vineland Volunteer Fire Company in neighboring Atlantic County dispatch its 8,000-gallon, tractor-drawn water tender to the scene. Some 1,400 feet of 1½-inch hose and 400 feet of one-inch hose were laid with two wyes and four one-inch handlines for approximately seven hours.
At the same time, two Forest Fire water tenders shuttled water from a hydrant in the City of Vineland to keep the firefighting operation running continuously without the loss of any water, approximately a four-mile round trip, to the handlines and kept other Forest Fire units supplied with water. Forest Fire personnel worked on this fire for nine days, pumping water onto hot spots.
RONALD RUGGERI has been chief of the East Vineland Volunteer Fire Company in Atlantic County, NJ, for 31 years and has served with the New Jersey Forest Fire Service for 19 years as a section fire warden. KENNETH BADGER Sr. has served with the New Jersey Forest Fire Service for 40 years as a district fire warden and is a past assistant chief of Pleasantville, NJ, Volunteer Fire Company 2.