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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
April 9, 2012

Contact: Lawrence Ragonese (609) 292-2994
Lawrence Hajna (609) 984-1795
Bob Considine (609) 984-1795

FOREST FIRE SERVICE CONTINUES EFFORTS TO CONTAIN AND EXTINGUISH
WILDFIRE IN THE PINELANDS IN BURLINGTON COUNTY

(12/P42) TRENTON - The forest fire currently burning in Tabernacle and Woodland Township in the heart of the Pinelands has extended to approximately 1,000 acres, but the New Jersey Forest Fire Service and Burlington County firefighters say the blaze was 50 percent contained as of this afternoon.

Approximately 60 Forest Service personnel have been joined by dozens of Burlington County volunteers to battle the fire and protect some 25 homes situated in the vicinity of it. Fire mitigation efforts continue around each of the homes, including use of backfires, to protect the isolated residences, which are situated in the woods.  

There were no reports of mandatory evacuations, structural damage or injuries as of 3 p.m. today.

The National Weather Service has issued a red flag warning in effect until Monday evening, with wind gusts expected to reach 40 MPH later today.

“Our crews are working very hard to contain and extinguish this fire, and to ensure that area residents are protected,’’ said Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner Bob Martin, who toured the area this morning. “With current dry conditions and low humidity creating a high danger for wildfires, it is important to remind all New Jersey residents and visitors to exercise extreme caution to prevent wildfires at this particularly vulnerable time.’’

“Heavy winds are making it more difficult than usual to battle this blaze, and prevent it from jumping from containment,’’ added State Forest Fire Service Acting Chief Michael Drake, who noted the cause of the blaze is under investigation.

Another forest fire is also ongoing at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in Burlington County today, with New Jersey Forest Fire Service, JB MDL Fire and Emergency Services and the New Egypt Fire Department working to contain the blaze.
 
Through early afternoon, approximately 300 acres of wooded area had been burned. The fire was first located on the base’s training ranges and moved in an easterly direction where previous controlled burns had been conducted.

The fire danger level is listed as extreme in Burlington, Atlantic, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Gloucester, Salem, Monmouth and Ocean counties, as well as Middlesex County south of the Raritan River. In the rest of the state, the fire danger level is high.
In Burlington, Monmouth and Ocean counties, and Middlesex County south of the Raritan River, there are Stage Three campfire restrictions – meaning all fires in wooded areas are prohibited unless contained in an elevated stove using only propane, gas or electricity.

The Tabernacle/Woodland fire was discovered just after midnight when a resident made a 911 call to Burlington County authorities to report a smoky odor. A state fire warden was promptly notified and soon discovered the ongoing blaze.

Personnel on the ground are using bulldozers and heavy equipment to create containment lines, while support also is being offered by helicopters and air tankers.

There are two road closures in Tabernacle due to the fire. Sooy Place Road, near Route 563, and a portion of South Park Road have been closed.

Wildfires can spread quickly in New Jersey, threatening homes, property, natural resources and human lives, yet most are preventable.

Follow these guidelines to reduce the risk of fires:

  • Use ashtrays in vehicles. Discarding cigarettes, matches and smoking materials is a violation of New Jersey law.
  •  Obtain necessary permits for campfires. Don't leave fires unattended. Douse them completely.
  • Keep matches and lighters away from children. Teach them the dangers of fire.
  •  People living in the forest should maintain a defensible buffer by clearing vegetation within 30 feet of any structures. Also, make sure fire trucks can pass down your driveway.
  • Report suspicious vehicles and individuals. Arson is a major cause of forest fires in New Jersey.

For more information on wildfires and fire safety, visit www.njwildfire.org

MEDIA: An incident Command Post has been set up at the South Park Gun Club, Route 532, Chatsworth.

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Last Updated: March 27, 2012