Big flames, raining embers in New Jersey pine barrens fire

Apr 12, 2023, 2:02 AM

In this photo provided by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, a massive 2,500-ac...

In this photo provided by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, a massive 2,500-acre forest fire burns in Ocean County, N.J., early Wednesday, April 12, 2023, as firefighters battle the blaze. The fire started late Tuesday, April 11, and is burning across some 2,500 acres (about 1,000 hectares). (New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection via AP)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection via AP)

MANCHESTER, N.J. (AP) — A New Jersey wildfire tore through 3,800 acres in the state’s pine barrens, raining down embers and confronting firefighters with 200-foot high flames, but leaving no one injured and property intact, officials said Wednesday.

The blaze in Manchester, near Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, forced the evacuation of dozens of homes late Tuesday, with police going door-to-door to ask people to go to a temporary shelter at a nearby high school.

The fire started Tuesday afternoon amid gusty winds, warm temperatures, low humidity and dried-out fuel, according to Trevor Raynor, a warden with state’s forest fire service. It’s about 50% contained as of Wednesday morning, but officials said they didn’t expect its perimeter to grow further.

“This fire exhibited extreme fire behavior,” said John Cecil, an assistant commissioner in the state’s Department of Environmental Protection. “I don’t mean to be dramatic, but this was a severe situation that these guys and gals managed to keep in a place and protect lives and property from that.”

Firefighters initially tried to keep the blaze — named the Jimmy’s Waterhole fire after a waterhole where the blaze was particularly intense — from crossing Route 539, but couldn’t stop the flames, Raynor said. Eventually, a perimeter, using pavement, roadways and other barriers was constructed, he added. There were some 75 firefighters, two helicopters, bulldozers and 15 fire engines involved.

Manchester and the Defense Department’s military installation are nestled in the state’s pinelands, a million-acre preserve, about halfway between Philadelphia to the west and the Atlantic coast to the east.

A cause of the fire wasn’t given, but authorities said they’re investigating.

Dry, warm weather is forecast in the coming days, with the next chance for rain not expected until the weekend. The National Weather Service said there’s an elevated risk of wildfire spread because of the low humidity, gusty winds and dried-out fuel.

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Big flames, raining embers in New Jersey pine barrens fire