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April 12, 2023

Pinelands wildfire engulfs 3,800 acres, prompts evacuations in Ocean County

The New Jersey Forest Fire Service said about 75 structures were threatened by the blaze

Environment Wildfires
New Jersey Wildfire Screen capture/6ABC

A wildfire in Ocean County, New Jersey had consumed more than 3,800 acres by late Wednesday morning in the area of Lakehurst and Manchester Township. Firefighters are working to contain the Pinelands blaze.

Firefighters in Ocean County are working to contain a large wildfire that broke out Tuesday night in Manchester Township, consuming more than 3,800 acres and prompting residents to evacuate from surrounding communities.

The Pinelands fire started in the area of Route 539, Route 70 and Horicon Avenue, near Lakehurst, about 50 miles east of Philadelphia. The blaze, called Jimmy's Waterhole Fire, was about 50% contained as of late Wednesday morning, the New Jersey Forest Fire Service said

About 20 structures in the area of the fire — which includes a mix of federal, state and private property — are still considered threatened by the flames. That number was down from 75 earlier Wednesday.

In the hours after the blaze began, mandatory evacuations were ordered in Lakehurst and Manchester, an area including about 170 structures that were cleared by first responders. Lakehurst police advised residents that they were safe to return home by 3 a.m. Wednesday. All evacuations have now been lifted, officials said.

Road closures were temporarily put in place along Route 539 and Route 70. Other local roads remain closed to allow firefighters to access the area.

No injuries have been reported and the cause of the fire remains under investigation. 

Authorities are using controlled fires to consume the fuel along the path of the wildfire – a technique known as backfiring — to bring the blaze under containment.

New Jersey's Pinelands National Reserves consists of about 1.1 million acres of protected forest that are threatened annually by wildfires in the spring months, when weather conditions heighten the risk for uncontrolled flames to ignite.

The state's forest fire service has already responded to several hundred wildfires this spring, including a blaze that consumed 418 acres last month in an uninhabited section of the Stafford Forge Wildlife Management Area, near Little Egg Harbor. That's near the Air National Guard's Warren Grove target range, the site of a 2007 wildfire that burned through 17,000 acres

Last June, another wildfire in the Wharton State Forest spread to nearly 12,000 acres in parts of Burlington, Gloucester and Atlantic counties before it was contained.

The New Jersey Forest Fire Service will continue to provide updates on the Jimmy's Waterhole Fire on Facebook.