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Horizons at Barnegat

Horizons at Barnegat

Surrounded by a vast expanse of pine trees known as “The Pine Barrens,” Barnegat Township in southern New Jersey is a continually growing neighborhood immersed in natural eastern beauty. Within Barnegat Township is Horizons at Barnegat, a 55+ community with nearly 300 residents, just five miles from Barnegat Bay. But as Horizons is bordered by a 1.1 million acre pine forest, the largest on the eastern seaboard wildfire risk is always on the minds of its residents.

After a National Guard pilot accidentally dropped a flare into dried vegetation on May 15, 2007, a massive wildfire burned 17,000 acres of woodland near Horizons. Due to the wildfire’s close proximity to the community, Horizons at Barnegat was evacuated twice, but without incident. In June 2008, residents of Horizons decided to be proactive and held a meeting with a committee of municipal officials from Stafford and Barnegat, representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Rutgers University, the New Jersey Forest Fire Service, and the Pinelands Commission. During the meeting, a study was presented that discussed the fire history of the region, population growth areas, and ways to implement new mitigation techniques to limit wildfire hazards and other risks in the community. “These presentations and the facts introduced by them allowed us to have a better understanding of how to prevent another wildfire from happening again,” said Nancy Reid, a member of Horizons. By October, the first Fire Safety Committee, comprised of 10 residents from Horizons at Barnegat, met with Gregory McLaughlin, Division Fire Warden of the New Jersey Forest Fire Service. “Thanks to Gregory’s expertise and guidance, we were able to become an official Firewise community, eventually changing the name of the group to the Firewise Committee.”

Despite being a small community of just 164 homes, Horizons has made substantial efforts in mitigating their wildfire risk. “Being surrounded by  wooded areas, we know we have to be vigilant and continuously strive towards minimizing our wildfire risk. Everyone has been extremely dedicated towards the effort, and we’re proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish,” says Reid. Through grant funded projects, Horizons at Barnegat often partners with other groups in the region, including the local fire department, to accomplish their Firewise goals, including tree removal, clearing and mowing in common areas, and even replacing mulch with stone.

Their Firewise Day events have also been extremely successful, with this year’s theme being, “Fire and the Pinelands-Maintaining Our Local Diversity.” The event, which was held in an open-house format that allowed residents and guests alike to attend, featured guest speaker Dane Ward from Drexel University, showcased the local fire department’s own brush truck, and introduced a presentation from John Cowie of the Barnegat Volunteer Fire Company on the hazards of traveling embers and how mitigation practices around one’s home can make a major difference in keeping homes and property safer. As a winner of the Firewise Challenge, Horizons at Barnegat has earned $5,000 to put towards future Firewise efforts thanks to the generous support of State Farm, NFPA’s partner in the Firewise Challenge. The prize winnings will go towards furthering mitigation efforts and expanding the resources available to residents. “The Firewise Committee, Board of Trustees and residents of the Horizons at Barnegat Community are so grateful, proud and ecstatic to be one of the recipients of the $5,000 State Farm Award for the Firewise Challenge. We thank State Farm for their generosity and support of our Firewise Program,” says Reid.