tampabay.com

Accidents make home feel like war

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published May 20, 2007


LITTLE EGG HARBOR TOWNSHIP - If your neighbor repeatedly set the neighborhood on fire, crashed a plane into it, and shot up the local elementary school, how neighborly would you feel?

The latest hazard caused by the Warren Grove Gunnery Range - a forest fire that burned 14, 000 acres, damaged or destroyed a handful of homes and forced 6, 000 people to flee - is heating up tensions between the base, which trains pilots bound for Iraq and Afghanistan, and the ring of senior citizen developments encroaching ever nearer.

National Guard officials say they believe the fire started when a flare dropped from an F-16 jet on a training maneuver ignited the tinder-dry Pinelands on a day when special fire safety precautions were in effect.

The blaze was just the latest in a string of accidents at the Warren Grove range:

- In April 1999, a Pennsylvania National Guard A-10 jet aiming for the range instead dropped a dummy bomb a mile off-target over the Pinelands in Burlington County, touching off a fire that burned 12, 000 acres.

- In June 2001, another errant bomb dropped by an F-16 caused a fire that scorched 1, 600 acres.

- In January 2002, an F-16 crashed near the Garden State Parkway - the third such crash at the range since 1992.

- And in November 2004, an F-16 mistakenly shot up an elementary school when the pilot applied too much pressure on the trigger. The plane fired 25 rounds instead of activating a targeting laser beam as he had intended. The school was empty aside from a custodian, and no one was injured.

The latest

Wildfires

New Jersey: After rain on Friday helped firefighters fight a blaze that burned 27 square miles of forest in the dry southern New Jersey Pinelands, the New Jersey Forest Fire Service on Saturday had the fire 90 percent contained and hoped to have it fully under control by the end of the day.

Northern Minnesota: A fire that had burned 117 square miles in the United States and Canada as of Friday could be brought under control by today, officials said.