New Jersey wildfire spreads to 12,000 acres

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New Jersey wildfire spreads to 12,000 acres

A New Jersey forest fire has spread to at least 12,000 acres — and is threatening to be the Garden State’s biggest wildfire in 15 years, according to officials.

The fire was discovered early Sunday afternoon in a remote section of Wharton State Forest, according to the New Jersey Forest Fire Service.

By Monday night, it had spread to 12,000 acres and was threatening “18 structures” as well as causing road closures in Washington, Shamong, Hammonton and Mullica Townships, the service said.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation, but officials “have ruled out likely natural causes,” Environmental Protection Commissioner Shawn Latourette said Monday.

“I think it’s important to reflect on the fact that the majority of our forest fires are human-caused,” he said, noting the “great risk” of illegal campfires.

Smoke bellows from a fire burning in the Wharton State Forest.
The fire was discovered early Sunday afternoon in a remote section of Wharton State Forest.
Dave Hernandez/NJ Advance Media via AP
New Jersey Forest Fire Service posted a map of the area affected by the fire burning in the Wharton State Forest.
New Jersey Forest Fire Service posted a map of the area affected by the fire.
Dave Hernandez/NJ Advance Media via AP
Route 206 is closed to traffic north of Hammontown due to a wildfire.
The fire has caused road closures in Washington, Shamong, Hammonton and Mullica Townships.
Charles Fox/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP
DEP Commissioner Shawn LaTourette speaks during a press conference.
DEP Commissioner Shawn LaTourette said officials “have ruled out likely natural causes.”
Dave Hernandez/NJ Advance Media via AP

“We could see in this incident the largest wildfire in the state of New Jersey in 15 years. That’s what we’re looking at here — and [it’s] avoidable,” he said.

“It’s serious. It’s real,” he warned.

The last fire that burned at least 15,000 acres was a 2007 blaze in southern Burlington and Ocean counties, which forced thousands of people to evacuate, NJ.com noted.

Volunteer fire crews refill New Jersey Forest Fire Service vehicles with water.
Volunteer fire crews refill New Jersey Forest Fire Service vehicles with water.
Dave Hernandez/NJ Advance Media via AP
Incident commander John Earlin Jr. speaks during a press conference in Shamong.
Incident commander John Earlin Jr. speaks during a press conference in Shamong.
Dave Hernandez/NJ Advance Media via AP
Smoke billows from a wildfire in Wharton State Park.
The blaze is threatening to be the Garden State’s biggest wildfire in 15 years.
Charles Fox/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP

Gov. Phil Murphy praised the “heroic work” of fire crews battling the blaze that “went from 2,000 acres to 11,000 in a very short amount of time.”

“This is increasingly, sadly, the world we’re in, with climate change,” he said during a Q&A on News 12 New Jersey.

With Post wires

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