A wind-whipped forest fire in the southern New Jersey Pinelands threatened 16 homes Tuesday. But firefighters were optimistic they could keep the flames away from the houses.
No injuries or damage to property had occurred as of late Tuesday afternoon, when the blaze had burned 125 acres and was not contained at all.
Winds gusting between 30 and 40 mph were fanning the flames. But so far, the fire was burning in a remote, uninhabited section of the Stafford Forge Wildlife Management Area in Little Egg Harbor Township, just west of Exit 58 of the Garden State Parkway in southern Ocean County.
No one had to be evacuated in the initial hours of the blaze, even as fire trucks and water tankers were positioned near the homes that firefighters considered potentially vulnerable to the blaze, said Greg McLaughlin, administrator of the New Jersey Forest Fire Service.
“The wind has been ripping all day. But it’s been consistently in one direction, which helps,” he said.
Also hampering the fire’s spread were numerous marshy bogs within the wildlife area that are wet from spring rains, McLaughlin said.
The fire was spotted from an aerial observation tower in the Pinelands at 11:44 a.m.
State, county and local investigators were looking into how it might have started, but no cause was immediately apparent, McLaughlin said.
The fire service has been doing controlled burns in the Pinelands in recent weeks to consume dead leaves, twigs and other forest floor fuel that could accelerate a wildfire. But there were no burns being done anywhere else in the state on Tuesday because of the high winds, officials said.
About 45 firefighters used 11 trucks, numerous water tankers, a bulldozer and a helicopter to fight the fire.
The fire was burning not far from the Air National Guard’s Warren Grove target range, where a 2007 forest fire burned 17,000 acres.