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An Ocean County Forest Fire

The following is reprinted from “A History of Monmouth and Ocean County” by Edwin Salter.

Fires have been so frequent in the extensive forests of Ocean County, that it is a hopeless task to attempt to enumerate them or describe in detail the exciting scenes they have occasioned. Often thousands of acres are swept over and tens of thousands of dollars’ worth are burned in a very short time. With a high wind, the roar of the fire in the woods, the flames leaping from tree-top to tree-top and running along the dried leaves make an appalling scene never to be forgotten; and the exciting work of fighting fire, with the flames often leaping over their heads or on the ground escaping and surrounding them, is too familiar to our old citizens to need describing.

About fifty years ago [around 1840 – ed] a fire broke out in the woods between Oyster Creek and Forked River, and many persons from Waretown and Forked River endeavored to subdue it. A sudden shift and increase of the wind brought the flames down with such rapidity upon the men that they had to run for their lives for the nearest body of water, which happened to be the old Frank Cornelius mill pond on Forked River; but one man named George Collins, of Waretown, missed the right road, and was overtaken by the flames and burned to death. His shoes were left to mark the spot where he was burned, for twenty or thirty years after.