South Jersey Forest Fire Burns More Than 1500 Acres

Crews from the state Forest Fire Service are battling a blaze that has already consumed about 1,500 acres in Cumberland County, N.J.

The fire began Wednesday afternoon and continued to burn woodlands inside the Edward Bevans Wildlife and Fish Management Refuge near Dividing Creek and Ackley roads in Downe Township Thursday morning.

The fire began after 2 p.m. Wednesday, spewing brownish smoke that could be seen for miles. Fueled by strong winds, it consumed about 225 acres in little more than three hours.

The fire has not threatened any homes and no injuries have been reported.

Mayor Robert Campbell told The Press of Atlantic City that the land near the fire primarily belongs to the state and several sand plant companies. He said there are no residential properties in that area.

The fire was about 55 percent contained as of Thursday morning. The state department of environmental protection said that plow units, water tanks and manpower were being used to battle the blaze.

As SkyForce10 hovered overhead Thursday morning it appeared that the smoke wasn't as thick and that the fire appeared to be less intense. 

Officials say high winds have made the fire difficult to control as a National Weather Service Red Flag Warning remained in effect with wind gusts of up to 30 mph expected.

Larry Ragonese with NJDEP said fires like these can actually help form a healthier forest because they cause the release of seeds and pods while clearing low brush.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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