Southern NJ Wildfire Mostly Contained; No injury | New Jersey News

By WAYNE PARRY, Associated Press

A wildfire burning in southern New Jersey was 85% contained by noon Tuesday, and firefighters were confident it would not spread beyond the perimeter lines they had created.

The blaze in Wharton State Forest is believed to have been caused by an illegal, unattended campfire in the woods, said Greg McLaughlin, chief of the New Jersey Forest Fire Service.

He said the blaze burned 13,500 of the 15,175 acre containment zone that has been put in place around him.

No one was injured and none of the 18 threatened structures was actually damaged.

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The fire started at 10 a.m. Sunday and quickly spread to areas of Washington Township in Burlington County and Mullica Township in Atlantic County.

“It was basically a makeshift (camp) fire,” McLaughlin said. “We suspect that people were passing by, whether on the river or on a hike. But we ruled out natural causes.

At least 50 people had to be evacuated from remote campsites in the forest that were only accessible by river or by hiking.

The fire was burning in a remote area of ​​the forest where access is difficult due to the configuration of the roads crossing the park and the fact that many of them have holes that fill with water, which slows down the progress of oncoming fire engines.

Firefighters used 22 engines, a helicopter with a 325-gallon bucket and other equipment to battle the blaze, which was expected to continue belching smoke for several days.

Local roads near the blaze were reopened Tuesday morning.

The fire threatened nearly half of the 40 historic structures in the village of Batsto, a popular tourist attraction with hikers and canoeists.

Fire engines were stationed near these buildings as well as some private structures that were in the path of the fire to protect them.

Hiking trails in Wharton State Forest will remain closed for several days until they can be inspected for any safety risks.

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