Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Warren Grove fire

William Gallagher surveys what's left of his Barnegat home.

Today I wrote a wrap-up story on the Warren Grove forest fire, which is now considered 100 percent contained. It is 90 percent controlled, the subtle difference being that contained means it is not going to move forward and continue burning new areas and controlled meaning some hot spots are still burning, but they are not going to leave that area. I hope that makes sense.

I feel odd writing the recap, as if I am taking the story from the reporters who were, literally, in the trenches for this one. But since some of them are taking a well-needed day off, and others resumed their regular beats, it fell to me. And I was glad to do it.

The story I wrote for the paper didn't contain everything I wanted to put in, like the fact that Janice Murray, seen below sifting through a wheelbarrow of china fragments, felt she had to do it for her mother's sake. Her mother, who died 7 months ago, always planned to give Murray the collection of china accumulated over three generations. Murray said she hoped to find at least a cup or a saucer or at least one piece. The family is taking the broken pieces and making it into a mosaic, while Murray's kids are perusing eBay, armed with the names of the china collections Murray's mom had stored.

I didn't put that the National Guard managed to find a wooden cut-out of a bear with a honey pot, inscribed with "a bear and his honey live here" in the remains of William Gallagher's home. Gallagher said his wife would be pleased that the sign, a souvenir from a trip to Smithville, survived the blaze. National Guard members also found the remains of a 35mm camera in the home, curtains Gallagher's wife sewed and remainders of a recently purchased daybed.

The shed's behind the mobile homes both survived the blaze, as did the plastic flowers in front of Gallagher's home. Oddly, several candles in the homes did not burn in the blaze.

Murray said she will always remember summer evenings at her dad's place, where he would pipe in music as everyone sat in the backyard, at a table or on a wooden swing, which also survived the fire. Les Balkie taped music from his travels around the world, and Murray said he had speakers hidden in the woods, so sometimes the sounds of the rainforest, like macau's chirping, would come from the green woods, now black sticks in scorched earth.

Murray found it odd and disheartening that random books, such as a guide to managing diabetes, was found in the home, but books filled with mementos of her mother were lost.

Here are a few more shots from today:

A bonfire grill sits in the middle of once-green woods, burned by a 17,000+acre wildfire. The wooden adridondack chairs survived the blaze.

An American flag taped to a pole by members of the 177th National Guard, in front of a home decimated by the Warren Grove fire.

A member of the 177th National Guard shovels ash from the remainders of a home in Barnegat.

Janice Murray sifts through a wheelbarrow full of china fragments, all that is left of her mother's heirloom china collection.

William Gallagher said his firesafe worked after his home in Barnegat was decimated by the Warren Grove Fire--it saved the insurance papers and mortgage papers he and his wife stored in there. Gallagher said he bought it at a local Staples, several decades ago.


adena said...

nice photos! you're going to put me out of a job! please tell me there was also a staff photog there while you took these photos. however much I loved being there during the fire, I would have loved to have been there for the aftermath clean-up

Shruti on the Shore said...

Sorry to say it was just me, my trusty notebook and point-and-shoot camera. AND they didn't even use any of my photos because of a desk miscommunication, grr.

Yeah, breaking news only gives you the drama of the immediate situation, while the aftermath gives you the human connection.