Wind-driven flames burn NJ forest

October 22, 2008 3:46:20 PM PDT
The battle continued Wednesday to contain a fire burning in New Jersey's Wharton State Forest. So far, about 1,800 acres have been burned.

Firefighters now consider the blaze to be 40% contained. However, it may take days to get the fire fully under control.

75 firefighters, 20 trucks and 4 helicopters worked to battle the flames Wednesday, and they're using more than water to get the job done.

"If they can't get on the fire directly then we back off and fight fire with fire," said Gregory McLaughlin of the NJ Forest Fire Service. "We put fire ahead of the oncoming fire to try and consume some of the fuels ahead of it so it slows it down."

Choppers are filling buckets at Atsion Lake and carrying the water to the most remote areas of pinelands where the trucks can't go.

The smoke forced the evacuation of six homes and two businesses

Seven miles of Route 206 between White Horse Pike, Route 30 and Atsion Road is closed for fire operations.

Investigators are now trying to figure out how this fire started.

"Any fire in any remote area is definitely suspicious. There were no natural cause, so it was definitely a human-caused fire," said State Fire Warden Maris Gabliks.

99% of forest fires in New Jersey are started by people, either accidentally or intentionally.

The first flames were sighted by a forest fire watch tower in Medford around 3:30 Tuesday afternoon. In a matter of hours, the blaze had spread across hundreds of acres.

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