UPDATE: NJ forest fire burns 10,000 acres, now 75% contained, DEP says
A massive wildfire on the Burlington/Ocean County border continued to burn on Sunday after consuming about 10,000 acres, state officials said.
The wildfire was about 75% contained in Penn State Forest off Spring Hill Road in Woodland Township as of Sunday aftermoon, according to Department of Environmental Protection spokesman Larry Hajna.
Hajna said the cause of the fire remained under investigation.
Gov. Phil Murphy praised the efforts of fire crews to limit further expansion and advised residents to heed the instructions of safety officials.
"The Department of Environmental Protection and State Police remain on alert, and we are grateful for the swift response of the brave men and women who have been working tirelessly overnight to contain the fire to prevent injury and loss of life for our residents," Murphy said in a statement.
The Ocean County Sheriff's Department said Route 72 was closed again in both directions in the area of the fire, as of 10 a.m on Sunday. Traffic had been allowed to resume for a few hours on the eastbound side, after a stretch of the highway was first closed on Saturday.
Woodland Township's Office of Emergency Management said back burn operations went on through the night to help get the fire under control, but no houses were in danger.
No firefighters have been injured and no evacuations were needed, according to Hajna, who also said 50 Forest Fire Service personnel, supported by several local fire departments were in action on Sunday at the scene of the blaze. The state also was using aircraft for water drops and observation.
Smoke and haze from the fire was seen heavily in Toms River in Ocean County early Sunday, and smelled as far north as Rahway in Union County.
The Ocean County Sheriff's Department also said smoke was visible from Atlantic City to Sandy Hook.
A fire last April in the same area burned over 800 acres of forest.
Sunday's weather will be cooler and damper than Saturday with less wind, according to Hajna,
Chief meteorologist Dan Zarrow said winds on Sunday morning would be "firmly out of the southwest, so the smokiness should be limited to northern Ocean and eastern Monmouth counties."
Mark Anthony and Dan Zarrow contributed to this report.
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