Forest fire in Burlington County 100 percent contained, officials say

FRANKLINVILLE, N.J. - April 25, 2014

The latest fire was reported around 11:00 a.m. Friday in Shamong Township in Burlington County in the area of Wharton State Forest.

Officials say the fire burned about 250 acres but was brought under control around 5:00 p.m.

Meanwhile in Franklinville, Gloucester County the White Oaks wildfire is expected to be 100 percent contained by midnight.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation, and so far it has burned more than 565 acres.

The fire began around 6:00 p.m. Thursday. Overnight fire crews dug trenches and set controlled burns, and by mid-morning the fire reached 50-percent containment.

According to the New Jersey Forest Fire Service, the bulk of the fire burned on state property, but crept dangerously close to about 60 homes.

There were no evacuations or homes damaged.

David Achey of the New Jersey Forest Fire Service tells us, "Even though we've had a wet winter, we've had a few really extremely windy days, and it only takes a day or two for the fuel [leaves, tree branches] to dry out."

In Ocean County, fire hit both east and west of the Garden State Parkway Thursday, scorching hundreds of acres in Berkeley Township and Beachwood.

However, as of late Thursday night the blaze was declared 100 percent contained and evacuated residents were allowed back in their homes.

"When they told us to evacuate, we ran."

Ray and Angela Wilkowsky could only stand and watch as the fire inched closer to their home. It was burning through a 300 acre section of forest between Bayville and Beachwood, and it burned well into the night, licking at the edges of housing developments.

Winds gusting over 30 miles per hour fanned the flames into an inferno. Firefighters had their hands full with this and two other fires that erupted later in Double Trouble State Park about five miles away.

The fire did flare up sporadically, once again too close for comfort to the Toms River Intermediate School South. Earlier in the day the school was evacuated as a precaution.

Parents raced to the school and residents rushed from work to try to protect their homes.

Aircraft attacked the fire from above, while 60 Forest Fire Service personnel tried to box in the main fire by lighting backfires around the perimeter.

Hundreds of local volunteer firefighters stood by in the backyards of homes dousing flames as they encroached.

By nightfall, the sky glowed red as hot embers rose in a cloud over the neighborhood. And there was the constant danger of the fire suddenly shifting direction.

Another forest fire in Berkley Township, located southwest of the fire on the township border, is now 80-percent contained, officials said.

In Downe Township, Cumberland County a wildfire that started Wednesday afternoon was 90-percent contained by Thursday night. That blaze ignited in remote woodlands of the Bevans Wildlife Management Area.

No homes or buildings were in its immediate path, but it burned nearly 2-and-a-half square miles of forest - a total of about 1,500 acres.


Information from The Associated Press was used in this article.

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