Crews work to contain NJ forest fires

April 7, 2012 11:44:28 AM PDT
Officials say one forest fire in Camden County has been 100 percent contained, but work continues on a second fire.

The first fire burning in Winslow Township was declared to be contained as of 2:30 p.m. according to the Department of Environmental Protection.

However, a second fire nearby is only 75 percent contained. So far, the flames affected nearly 400 acres.

The fires are burning adjacent to the Atlantic City Expressway. Firefighters are using controlled burns to fight the larger blaze, with one near the highway. However, the highway remains open.

Officials tell Action News the blazes were first discovered Friday morning near Winslow Road. Billowing clouds of smoke could be seen for miles.

The fires are now being attacked both on the ground and in the air. Crews are ferrying huge buckets that can carry up to 800 gallons of water.

High tension electric wires that run right through the burning forest are also a major concern.

"When the heavy smoke gets around the tension lines there's a possibility of an arc coming down to the ground. The carbon in the smoke will actually conduct electricity," said Albert Valentino, District Fire Warden.

Firefighters used backfires and bulldozers to create firelines - a perimeter designed to stop the spread of flames.

While crews continue to put out hotspots, the New Jersey Fire Warden says at this point the cause of the two fires- about a mile apart- is suspicious.

"It's just suspicious that in this very close proximity these two fires.There was no lightning, there was no other causes readily available that would have started the fire," said Michael Drake.

Officials say no structures, homes or businesses are being threatened at this time and no evacuations have been ordered.

Another Red Flag warning was declared by the National Weather Service on Friday. That's when conditions are right for explosive spread of fire.

The combination of wind, lack of rain, and all the dry twigs, leaves and other debris on the forest floor create what firefighters call a "perfect storm". All of that debris on the forest floor creates the equivalent of an inch of gasoline, which facilitates rapid spread of flames.