According to the New Jersey Forest Fire Service, an estimated 1,500 wildfires destroy 7,000 acres of forest each year. These fires become a threat to residents nearby and have damaged numerous natural resources and woodlands throughout the state.

Over the last 22 years especially, New Jersey has seen some pretty destructive fires, consuming thousands of acres of forest in its path. Some are bigger and more frightening than others, but all equally raise concern.

Here are 10 of the most significant wildfires New Jersey has seen throughout the 21st century.

June 10, 2001

A 25-pound practice bomb ignited this fire and burned 1,600 acres of pygmy pine trees across Burlington and Ocean counties. Most of the burning took place south of Route 72 and west of County Route 539. The fire was able to be contained at County Route 539 before it reached residential areas in the evening. Although the fire never damaged any homes, it threatened a few in the Warren Grove area.

June 2, 2002

Historically known as the Great Jakes Branch Blaze, this wildfire burned about 1,300 acres of forest across Ocean County. Assisted by strong northwest winds, this fire damaged about 30 structures and forced the closure of the Garden State Parkway for 12 hours from exit 58 to exit 82.

About 500 homes in the Bayville Section of Berkeley were forced to evacuate, 170 residents of the Crystal Lake Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center had to leave, and five to six families in Beachwood Borough were also forced to flee.

This wildfire destroyed a year-round home for the first time in 17 years. Shelters for evacuees were made at nearby schools and firehouses. Out of the 350 firefighters fighting the blaze, four of them were injured. The fire was not declared officially out until heavy rain fell on it four days later. As a result, two-thirds of the Jakes Branch County Park burned.

Brickworks wildfire in the Brendan T. Byrne State Forest 6/26/22
Brickworks wildfire in the Brendan T. Byrne State Forest 6/26/22 (NJ DEP)
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August 15, 2002

As a result of hot and humid weather, 3,000 acres of forest, fields, swamp and old cranberry bogs were destroyed after a wildfire began on the Fort Dix Military Reservation in Burlington and Ocean counties. It’s presumed that the sun’s heat ignited a practice ammunition round, destroying multiple ranges. Although firefighters were ultimately able to contain the flames two days later, underground flare-ups continued until heavy rain at the end of the month extinguished the rest of it.

May 15, 2007

As one of the most well-known wildfires in New Jersey, the Warren Grove fire consumed 15,550 acres of forest in Ocean County. Not only were 24 square miles of forest ruined, but five homes were completely destroyed and 50 others were significantly damaged. About 6,000 people were forced to flee from Stafford and Barnegat Townships. 600 firefighters from various counties and seven aircrafts helped to put out the fire. Two of New Jersey’s Forestry Service personnel were injured. The Warren Grove wildfire marked the largest in the state since April 1995.

Aerial view of the wildfire in the Pine Barrens on the Burlington-Ocean County line
Aerial view of the wildfire in the Pine Barrens on the Burlington-Ocean County line in 2015. (6 ABC)
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August 3, 2007

A forest fire sparked in Burlington County’s Wharton State Forest, which burned 2,443 acres in both Washington and Shamong Township. Overnight rain assisted the firefighters in putting out the flames. No homes, camping sites or recreational facilities were damaged, along with no injuries or property damage.

July 1, 2010

A 4,000-acre wildfire sparked on the southern side of a weapons range at the McGuire-Fort Dix-Lakehurst Joint Military Base. It occurred around 1.5 miles north of Route 70 near the Ocean and Burlington County border and continued until heavy rain stopped it on July 14.

Tree burned by wildfire in Woodland Township
Tree burned by wildfire in Woodland Township in 2016. (NJ Forest Fire Service)
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April 9, 2012

A total of 1,700 acres of forest were consumed by 33 wildfires on April 9, 2012, in Burlington, Mercer, Middlesex and Sussex counties. One of the more significant fires started in South Park in central Burlington County, with over 250 firefighters battling the blaze. Another began on the Fort Dix Military Installation on the border of Ocean and Burlington counties, killing around 300 acres. Smaller wildfires occurred in Monroe and West Windsor.

September 7-9, 2015

A three-day wildfire powered by hot weather destroyed 1,012 acres of woodland in Burlington and Ocean county. The fire started in a section of Woodland Township and continued to spread into Manchester. Around 90% of the acreage burned into the township.

Lakewood wildfire burns on Sunday night
Lakewood wildfire burns in March 2021. (Hamilton Fire Company, Neptune Township)
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March 31, 2019

The Spring Hill fire goes down as one of New Jersey’s most destructive wildfires, consuming a total of 11,638 acres of pineland in Burlington County. Strong winds made it difficult for firefighters to contain, and roadways such as Route 72 west and Route 539 in Barnegat Township were forced to close. While no evacuations were needed, residents were able to smell and smell smoke from the fire.

May 19, 2020

In the midst of a global pandemic, strong winds fueled a wildfire in the Winslow Wildlife Management area, consuming 2,107 acres of land on the borders of Camden and Gloucester counties. Although no structures were destroyed, winds began to blow smoke toward Delaware. Smoke was visible to nearby residents for an extended period of time and motorists traveling in surrounding areas were alerted to be cautious while firefighters worked to contain the wildfire.

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