BRICK – It was bad enough that a forest fire was intentionally set, but the fact that a firefighter had suffered a cardiac arrest during it is unforgivable.
Fortunately, the firefighter is on the mend, recovering at home. East Dover Fire Company District Chief Brian Sauers (also a firefighter with the New Jersey Forest Fire Service) was recently released from Shore Rehabilitation Institute, a part of Ocean Medical Center.
Luckily, he make the trip home alone. More than 100 firefighters and other first responders greeted him as he left by wheelchair.
He didn’t go home by car, though. He was escorted in a fire truck, of course.
The fire is still under investigation.
The blaze started out as a brush fire at 5 Airport Road in Lakewood on the afternoon of March 14. It was first spotted by a New Jersey Forest Fire Service Observation Tower in Lakewood. It quickly spread to buildings and multiple units responded.
It eventually consumed more than 167 acres and two commercial buildings, the New Jersey Forest Fire Service said. It leaped across the Garden State Parkway, closing that road and several others. There were 29 homes with damage to siding, sheds, and other such accessory structures.
Firefighters battled it overnight. The fire spread through dry conditions and high winds.
Sauers suffered the cardiac arrest while responding to the fire. He was transported to Hackensack Meridian Ocean Medical Center in Brick Township
“We have located the origin of the fire and have concluded that the fire was intentionally set,” Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley D. Billhimer had said.
“The significance of this wildland fire cannot be overstated. We have a firefighter that suffered cardiac arrest while battling this fire. Three homeless people living in the woods were saved from the advancing fire. Numerous residences and commercial properties were damaged and hundreds of people were evacuated. It is only by the grace of God that no one was killed,” Prosecutor Billhimer said.
Anyone with information concerning this fire is urged to contact Sgt. Thomas Haskell of the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office at 732-929-2027, ext. 3953.”
The fire was investigated by the Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office Major Crime Squad-Arson Unit, Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office High Tech Crime Unit, Ocean County Fire Marshal’s Office, Lakewood Township Police Department Detective Bureau, and Ocean County Sheriff’s Office Crime Scene Investigation Unit.