11,000 acres of NJ fire burned: Massive blaze finally contained
CHATSWORTH — Fire crews have contained a wind-whipped blaze that has burned more than 11,000 acres of state land in New Jersey's Pine Barrens.
State environmental protection department officials say the blaze was spotted Saturday afternoon in the Penn State Forest in Woodland Township. Plumes of smoke from the fire were visible from as far as Freehold, about 40 miles (64 kilometers) away.
The fire was declared 100 percent contained on Monday. But the cause of the blaze remains under investigation.
A portion of Route 72, the main road across the Pinelands, was temporarily closed by the fire. But no homes or businesses were endangered by the blaze, and no injuries or mandatory evacuations were reported.
Gov. Phil Murphy over the weekend the efforts of fire crews to limit further expansion and advised residents to heed the instructions of safety officials.
"The Department of Environmental Protection and State Police remain on alert, and we are grateful for the swift response of the brave men and women who have been working tirelessly overnight to contain the fire to prevent injury and loss of life for our residents," Murphy said in a statement.
Smoke and haze from the fire was seen heavily in Toms River in Ocean County early Sunday, and smelled as far north as Rahway in Union County.
A fire last April in the same area burned over 800 acres of forest.
Just weeks ago, forestry experts told legislators the Pinelands region was facing a deadly wildfire threat that could cause as much, if not more, destruction as the blaze that obliterated the town of Paradise, California, last year.
“There is a real potential for catastrophic wildfire in the New Jersey Pinelands,” said Greg McLaughlin, the chief of the NJ Forest Fire Service.
He said a variety of plants and vegetation in the Pinelands will quickly create a very dangerous situation if a fire breaks out.
“They grow densely. There’s connectivity between the shrub layer and the canopy, the tree tops, which allows fire to spread quickly. It allows for explosive fire growth," he said. “This fuel model, as I called it, is very similar to the fuel model and the fuel structure in California.”
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