In the 1980’s, at the height of put-it-out-no-matter-what fire policy in the New Jersey Pine Barrens, an eco-terrorist fireman wages war on a property developer, and in the process exposes his dual nature as defender of a vital ecosystem and lone wolf with a distrust of authority.

from   H E A D F I R E …

“Forget everything you know, or think you know, about New Jersey. Forget the industrial north, Newark Airport, the Turnpike. Delve instead into spindly pines and navigate with some difficulty the lanes of gray, because it is summer and the sand is thick. You could take the I-76 to NJ-42 south, until somewhere at the entrance to the 42, you cross the New Jersey Turnpike. Soon, you’ll be doing eighty miles an hour on the Atlantic City Expressway, and as you pass Sicklerville―though you won’t know exactly―cast your eyes left, and imagine you can penetrate the layers of pine like wallpaper. ”


You may think you are looking at a stand of trees, but look closer. Among the old bottles and arrowheads are pieces of history.

History grown over…

H I S T O R Y   G R O W N   O V E R …               photo by Matt Swern


“People may one day look back upon the final stages of the development of the great unbroken Eastern city and be able to say at what moment all remaining undeveloped land should have been considered no longer a potential asset to individuals but an asset of the society at large–perhaps a social necessity.”
John McPhee,
The Pine Barrens


These are the sentiments of HEADFIRE’s  protagonist Lem Bartow, a Spartan living, Thoreau-quoting renegade and firefighter for the New Jersey forestry. Lem worries about development that’s carving up the woods. Lem loves his wife, Jessie, but he harbors a special feeling for pines, cedar stands, birds, animals and flora of their wilderness home.


Fire in the PinelandsHEADFIRE   Fire management is about to change, and Lem Bartow is an early voice for that change.


The New Jersey Pine Barrens is special for so many reasons, not least for its water, 17 trillion gallons of fresh water in the Kirkwood-Cohansey aquifer.





If you know the roads, as you drive,

imagine all that water right there beneath you ~




In writing HEADFIRE, water was a constant inspiration, an unavoidable element. In such a watery place there are constant reminders: in the blueberries that thrive in a shallow water table, in the cranberries that require flooding at certain times of year.