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April 27, 2016

Thunderstorm helps control Camden County wildfire

About 95 acres burned, but the Winslow Township fire is contained now

A dousing evening thunderstorm that brought cooler temperatures and higher humidity overnight Tuesday into Wednesday morning has helped fire crews contain a 95-acre fire in Winslow Township.

Smoke from the fire, near a gun club, was visible from the Atlantic City Expressway. The fire, at the western end of Camden County, bumps up against Atlantic County.

The smoke forced the closing of a portion of Piney Hollow Road on Wednesday.

A worker with the New Jersey Forest Fire Service’s Division C said Wednesday morning that the rain, plus brush clearing and backfires set by firefighters, mean “[the fire] isn’t going anywhere today,” though he added it continues to burn.

Fire companies from Hammonton, Collings Lakes and Winslow joined with the fire service to protect nearby buildings.

Dry and gusty conditions before the thunderstorm were prime for the spread of fire.

But at around 9 a.m. Wednesday, the service’s Piney Hollow weather monitoring station showed a temperature of just 47 degrees, with winds of just 1 mph, though there were some gusts of 8 mph, and a relative humidity of 88 percent. The station recorded more than a quarter inch of rain overnight.

And while temperatures will remain lower Wednesday throughout South Jersey, not all areas of the Pinelands got much in the way of precipitation from the storm, meaning there is still a threat of fire.

Temperatures are expected to remain coolor over the next five days. Rain is possible Friday and Sunday and is expected Monday.

A recent story in Rolling Stone magazine warned that New Jersey is primed for a runaway wildfire under the right weather conditions. The state, while acknowledging the danger of forest fire, dismissed the story as over the top.

Prime fire season in the Pinelands ends around mid-May as abundant oak trees leaf out, shading and cooling the forest floor.