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Firefighters continuet to battle New Jersey brush fires

April 11, 2012 4:57:38 AM PDT
Firefighters in southern New Jersey continue to make progress in battling brush fires and wildfires burning across the region.

Authorities say a small brush fire that broke out in Barnegat late Tuesday morning has been fully contained, while only hotspots remain of a large wildfire in Burlington County.

Roughly 20 acres was burned in the Barnegat blaze, which remains under investigation. It occurred near a residential area, but no injuries or property damage was reported.

Meanwhile, firefighters contained a 1,000-acre fire in Tabernacle and Woodland that broke out Monday.

Division Fire Warden Greg McLaughlin describes it as "definitely suspicious in nature." The cause should be known within the next few days.

There's no report of injuries or property damage.

Red flag warnings remain in effect Wednesday because the threat of brush fires is high throughout New Jersey.

At its peak, more than 100 firefighters from state and local departments were in Burlington County, fighting the fire and keeping it away from 25 homes, mostly along Sooy Place Road in Tabernacle.

"When I got up this morning, it looked really horrible, looked like it was coming toward us, but fortunately it stopped," resident Constantin Alimonos said. "It looked like hell."

Fire crews lit controlled blazes, or backfires, around the homes to prevent the main fire from getting too close.

"We use the saying that we're fighting fire with fire," Assistant Fire Warden Michael Achey said. "We remove fuel that could catch fire."

It was the second and third major brush fires in southern New Jersey in less than a week. Last week, fires burned 400 acres in Winslow Township, about 20 miles southwest of Monday's blaze. Officials have said those were likely set deliberately.

Forestry officials need a soaking rain not only to help put out this fire, but also to reduce the risk of more fires.

Nancy McGinnis, who owns a deli near the area affected by the fire, said brush fires aren't uncommon in the rural area.

"This kind of thing happens every year around here," she said. "But I still worry because I have some customers who might have to evacuate. It's very scary."

The fire danger level is listed as extreme in Burlington, Atlantic, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Gloucester, Salem, Monmouth and Ocean counties, as well as Middlesex County south of the Raritan River. In the rest of the state, the fire danger level is high.

Follow these guidelines to reduce the risk of fires:

  • Use ashtrays in vehicles. Discarding cigarettes, matches and smoking materials is a violation of New Jersey law.
  • Obtain necessary permits for campfires. Don't leave fires unattended. Douse them completely.
  • Keep matches and lighters away from children. Teach them the dangers of fire.
  • People living in the forest should maintain a defensible buffer by clearing vegetation within 30 feet of any structures. Also, make sure fire trucks can pass down your driveway.
  • Report suspicious vehicles and individuals. Arson is a major cause of forest fires in New Jersey.

    For more information on wildfires and fire safety, visit NJWildfire.org

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