ASBURY PARK, N.J. – A wildfire that started in Penn State Forest on Saturday is now raging across 8,000 acres of forest in Burlington County, authorities said early Sunday.
Route 72 between routes 532 and 539 in Barnegat remains closed while firefighters try to contain the spread of the wildfire. As of 8 a.m. Sunday, about 50 percent of the fire is contained, but it’s unclear as to whether it will keep growing, said John Rieth, an assistant warden with the New Jersey Forest Fire Service.
There are no threats to structures and no reported injuries or property damage, but local fire departments are standing by in case that changes, Rieth said. On Saturday, Burlington County activated its wildfire strike team.
Smoke and ash filled the air as far north as Holmdel and Marlboro in Monmouth County, which is at least 40 miles from the fire.
There are about 50 firefighters and 17 trucks from the state’s Forest Fire Service working to contain the fire, Reith said. A helicopter is monitoring its spread.
The fire is near the Ocean County border, but Rieth said he believes the fire is still only in Burlington.
California’s secret wildfire weapon: Goats, sheep chew through flammable grass, brush
Camp Fire: Death toll raised to 84 in Camp Fire; 475 still missing
When the wildfire was spotted just before 2 p.m. Saturday, less than an acre was on fire, Rieth said. It was first reported from the Apple Pie Hill Fire Tower in Tabernacle Township, Rieth said.
A team of fire investigators from various agencies is conducting an inspection to try to determine the cause of the fire, Reith said.
“It could be a million possibilities,” he said. “Our plan is working at this time. We’re pleased with the progress they’re making.”
Rieth said the fire service is using what’s called “backfire” to stop the fire from growing.
“We fight fire with fire,” Rieth said. “We light fires ahead of the fire and around the fire.”
The fire can’t grow is there’s no fuel and oxygen to help its spread, Rieth said. The idea is when the fires meet, they go out because there’s no more brush, vegetation and trees to burn.
National park fires: Should they be allowed to burn?
Climate change: Wildfires more likely with hot/dry weather combo, thanks to climate change
“With a fire of this magnitude, there’s no way to put it out with water,” he said. “There’s not enough water in the world.”
The little bit of rain that’s expected to fall this afternoon probably won’t be enough to help put out flames, Rieth said. He said it’s more likely to impede progress unless it ends up raining more than the predicted one-tenth of an inch.
Conditions for wildfires have been ripe for the past few days because of the dry air and wind, Rieth said. Winds near the fire are blowing at about 14 mph with 20 mph gusts, according to the National Weather Service in Mount Holly.
Follow Kala Kachmar on Twitter: @NewsQuip