Municipal Report: Warwick learns about wildfire control

graphic by Justin Fionneran

Richard Deppen, Assistant Forest Manager of the Pennsylvania Bureau of Forestry, met with the Warwick supervisors and visitors during the first week in August to discuss wildfire prevention.

'We want to help you develop a plan to prevent damage because of wildfires,' he said before he showed a map with the heavily forested areas. The highlighted areas included chiefly the local State Game Lands and French Creek State Park, spanning Robeson, Union and Warwick Townships.

There is an effort underway for people who have an interest in coming together to develop a plan to control the amount of brush and timber that fuels fires. Funding for the effort could be aided through a grant provided by the Bureau of Forestry. There is a plan to match 50 percent of the cost, up to $40,000.

'We can look for private funding from groups like the Natural Lands Trust,' suggested Deppen.

'Actually there were not that many acres burned in Warwick Township,' said Chairman Charles Jacob. 'The bulk was in Union Township.'

About 45 acres was burned in the Hopewell National Historic site. The Hopewell Big Woods and Warwick Township welcome the idea of a community protection plan.

'All of us have read through this and think it would be a good idea to have a taskforce to study the proposal,' Jacob said. 'The Hopewell Big Woods Partnership has 42 members. We will have a follow up meeting involving all of the parties to see what comes out of the discussion before we decide.'

'People have an inclination to forget about a catastrophe such as this,' said Deppen.

It was suggested that people who are primarily from the area should become involved in the effort. Jim Thorn from the Natural Lands Trust was named as someone to contact, as well as representatives from Warwick and Union Townships and D.C.N.R. The French Creek State Park office was suggested as a meeting place.

The Society of American Foresters provided a pamphlet which explains what a community can do to provide a wildfire protection plan. Reducing the amount of woody debris which fuels wild fires and creating a healthy forest is the best way to control and prevent wild fires. All organizations involved, from a local to state level, have to cooperate in planning to prevent fires and control a fire if it happens.

A resident shared that his daughter lives in an area in Oklahoma where a recent fire wiped out the whole town, and added that having places set up to provide shelters for horses, dogs, cats and livestock should be part of the strategy.

Warwick Emergency Management Coordinator said Dr. Dan Newhall said that there was a serious lack of communication, pointing out that he received only one call.

There was a follow up meeting to look into how communication worked during the Hopewell wildfire, but concerns are that the meeting – which took place in the basement of a residence – was inadequate.

Jacob said a large drain pipe has been replaced along James Mill Road.

'We have been sent a copy of the new comprehensive plan by the Berks County Planning Commission for review,' said Jacob.

Jacob said that East Nantmeal will be leaving the Northern Federation, but that there was no comment on 'why'.

'There was some information in the newspapers. The letter from East Nantmeal did not give a reason. They may bring it up at the August meeting in East Nantmeal. Jim Gerlach and Tim Hennessey have asked why East Nantmeal withdrew (and said that they view East Nantmeal's leaving as) a big mistake. They will talk to them. They say Jim Jenkins just doesn't understand.'

The Warwick Township Historical Architectural Review Board denied an application for a renovation in St. Peters Village because the plans depicted an addition with a design that was too modern for the historic village.

There were six building permits and a certificate of occupancy issued in July.

The Pennsylvania State Police received 40 calls from Warwick Residents in July. The Twin Valley Fire Department had two calls from Warwick in July.

The State Police are very concerned about people swimming in the quarry near St. Peters. Several have been arrested for trespassing, said Jacob. There is a concern about trash and junk left there. Violators will be prosecuted.

Some changes have been made in Emergency Management plans, with Jacob stating that 'everything is good to go'. There are no evacuation drills for problems at Limerick Power Station planned in the immediate future.

Chester County wants to continue the Hazardous Waste Disposal Plan, said Jacob. The nearest depository is at Owen J. Roberts High School. Warwick will continue to participate in the plan. The Chester County Solid Waste Authority wants townships to establish an ordinance to make recycling mandatory.

'We will be looking into the policies of other municipalities to aid in developing a plan most suitable to this township,' he said.

Chester County has decided not to establish a per capita tax to finance emergency services said Jacob.

The Bates property along Route 23 located across from the municipal building will remain as open space. Grant money has been obtained from Chester County to preserve the 83 acre farm.

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