Firefighters work to contain Penn State Forest Fire
Peter Ackerman, Asbury Park Press
ASBURY PARK, N.J. – A wildfire that engulfed approximately 11,600 acres, or more than 18 square miles, of a New Jersey forest over the weekend is finally 100 percent contained, but crews will continue to monitor the fire until a significant rainfall, authorities said Monday.
As of 8 a.m. Monday, New Jersey Forest Fire Service crews were able to contain the fire in Penn State Forest, meaning it won’t spread. However, there are still areas that are burning, said John Rieth, assistant warden for the division that handles fires in Burlington, Middlesex, Monmouth and Ocean counties.
In total, 11,638 acres of the forest were consumed over the last two days, Rieth said. Crews of about 50 forest fire service firefighters worked throughout the weekend to get the fire contained. They predominately used “backfire” – or the process of setting fires around the wildfire to eliminate fuel preventing its spread.
“We’re mopping up and hitting hot spots along the control line,” Rieth said. “Anything along smoldering along the perimeter of the fire, we’re going to go manually suppress.”
The fire in Burlington County didn’t cause injuries or property damage and didn’t threaten any structures.
State Route 72 in Barnegat was temporarily closed while crews nearby worked on the fire but was reopened Sunday night.
There may still be “islands” of fire burning inside the perimeter, Rieth said. Wetlands, creeks and other damp areas that didn’t initially catch fire may still be burning.
“It was fortunate that the fire was in a very remote area,” Rieth said, adding that fighting a wildfire becomes significantly more challenging when there are homes or buildings that need protection.
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The fire will continue to be monitored until significant rainfall, which could be days, weeks, months or even longer. Rieth said the forest fire service doesn’t take any chances until the fire is completely out.
Rieth said they monitor the fire for a “prolonged” amount of time so there aren’t any problems.
“We’re vigilant about this,” he said. “We’re sticklers about ensuring our fires are contained, controlled and out as time goes by.”
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