A forest fire that has been burning for hours in Berkeley Township, N.J. is now fully contained, fire officials said during a press conference late Thursday.
While firefighters are still working to extinguish those flames, a second large fire is burning through another wooded area in the Garden State.
As of 10:25 p.m., the fire in Franklin Township, Gloucester County had burned through more than 569 acres near Salem Avenue and Whitehall Road.
The earlier fire in Berkeley Township prompted the evacuations of homes and a school Thursday afternoon.
Residents were asked to turn on their yard sprinklers as firefighters tried to douse the fire, which had burned through 307 acres by 7 p.m.
More than 620 homes were evacuated, said Greg McLaughlin of the New Jersey Forest Fire Service, but luckily, none were severely damaged.
"Several homes sustained some damage but were not total losses," according to an advisory posted by the township.
Evacuated residents were allowed to return to their homes around 10:30 p.m.
High wind, low humidity and dry forest created ripe conditions for what authorities with the township's police department called a Class 5 fire, "which is the most dangerous type."
About 1,100 students at Toms River Intermediate School, which is a middle school, were bused to the high school as a precaution, and then taken home on school buses.
"You can see flames and tons of smoke. The flames were getting higher and higher," said witness Dan Popo.
The fire began around 11:40 a.m. at Jake's Branch Park near Grand Central Parkway and Northern Boulevard, an area near the Berkeley and Beachwood border, according to Ocean County dispatchers. Residents in homes along Northern and Western Boulevards were asked to leave, as a precaution.
Hajna expressed confidence in the number of crews fighting the fire, and their level of training.
"The New Jersey Forest Fire Service is very expert at containing fire. You know, these are very difficult conditions today because of the dry weather and it’s very windy. So they’re going to have their hands full," Hajna said.
From the air, crews were fighting the fire with two airplanes and one helicopter. On the ground, they had more than four dozen firefighters, 10 engines and two bulldozers.
There are no reports of injuries.
Three other fires, a second in Berkeley, one in Manchester Township and one in Toms River are also burning.
"April is fire season in New Jersey," said McLaughlin.