To access the remainder of this piece of premium content, you must be registered with Firehouse. Already have an account? Login
Register in seconds by connecting with your preferred Social Network.
Complete the registration form.
New Jersey is called, "The Garden State." It is the most densely populated state in the country with over 1,000 people per square mile. Many who travel through the northeast portion of New Jersey, along the Route 95 corridor, may associate this state with urban congestion, chemical odors, a man-made mountain of refuse and hundreds of acres of "elephant grasses" known as the Meadowlands. However, one only needs to travel a short distance away from that industrialized urbanization and megalopolis to see and to smell why New Jersey is appropriately and correctly called the Garden State.
Photo from Robert M. Winston's collection/courtesy of NJFFS
A New Jersey Forest Fire Service crew attacking an "interzone" fire May 3, 1992, during a fire in Lacey Township, Ocean County, NJ.
Nearly 40% of the state is still in commercial forestland. Its pine barrens, located in the southern part of the state, contain over 1 million acres of highly combustible trees and brush. Another 13% is in parks, recreation areas and watersheds. Numerous farms, orchards and gardens are scattered throughout the state.
Adequate protection from wildfire is essential. The value of forest resources is estimated at $8.5 billion dollars. The wood industry alone employs 33,000 people with an annual payroll of $1 billion. Water quality, animal habitat, recreation and the ever-expanding structural wildland interzone (SWI) areas demand fire protection resources.
In 1899, a consultant submitted a report to the state that emphasized the need for forest fire control and the establishment of a forest fire service. In 1906, a law was passed establishing the New Jersey Forest Fire Service (NJFFS). A fire warden system was formed with 64 wardens appointed within the first year. In 1910, a system of forest fire watchtowers was begun.
It was not until 1924 that the present system of forest fire protection was organized. In 1927, the first aircraft was used for aerial fire observation. The CCC constructed a series of firebreaks and roads in New Jersey forests and parks from 1933 to 1942.
Rapid advancements and improvements in motorized "track" vehicles and communications occurred from the 1930s through the 1950s. In 1961, aircraft was first utilized for aerial water bombing of fires. A reorganization and professionalization of the NJFFS was begun in 1978 and completed in 1980.
Today's Forest Fire Service