Bass River State Forest wildfire creates haze over Ocean County
LITTLE EGG HARBOR — Firefighters continue to battle a wildfire that burned 617 acres along Route 9 in the Bass River State Forest on Sunday. The fire created a haze of heavy smoke across the region on Monday.
Little Egg Harbor police Chief Richard Buzby told New Jersey 101.5 on Monday morning that 50 fire crews and the New Jersey Forest Fire Service have worked to contain 40% of the fire. He said there were no injuries and no structures have been affected by the fire so far.
"The Forest Fire Service service is fantastic. I think South Jersey in particular would be lost without them. I can tell you from personal experience that would be the case," Buzby said.
The number of structures considered to be at risk was reduced from 100 to 30 on Monday with the Pinelands Middle School being used as a voluntary evacuation site.
Route 9 was also reopened on Monday morning.
Firefighters used a strategy of setting small, controlled fires around the main fire to create a buffer from the structures, according to the Forest Fire Service, which said both forest land and private land was affected by the fire.
The fire was spotted about 4 p.m. from the Bass River fire tower and is inside a large, forested area that has limited accessibility in an area east of the Garden State Parkway bordered by Stage Road to the north and Otis Bog Road to the east.
Fire crews are wetting the brush and woods right along Route 9 to keep the fire from spreading onto the roadway. Route 9 is closed through the area of the fire.
The fire, also in Burlington County, is the second major wildfire in Ocean County this season. A wildfire on March 14 in Lakewood that "jumped" the Garden State Parkway into Brick burned 167 acres. Ocean County Prosecutor Bradley Billhimer said an investigation determined the fire was intentionally set but no one has been charged.
New Jersey 101.5 Chief Meteorologist Dan Zarrow said three components that contribute to "fire weather danger" are present in the area.
"The first is dry brush, which is certainly the case given our rainfall deficit over the last month or two. The second is low humidity, which will be the case this week with unusually dry air stuck over New Jersey. And the third is wind, which will be relatively light all week. That works in firefighters' favor, somewhat limiting the spread of any fires that do spark," Zarrow said.