New Jersey firefighters took the lead on Wednesday in a fire that has charred nearly 3,900 acres of forest and forced the evacuation of 170 homes, authorities said.
The Jimmy’s Waterhole Fire in Ocean County started Tuesday and was 60% contained by Wednesday afternoon, New Jersey Forest Fire Service Chief Greg McLaughlin he told reporters in Whiting, about 50 miles north of the Atlantic City boardwalk.
Firefighters have surrounded the blaze that has burned 3,859 acres and hope it doesn’t get too big.
«The brief today is to continue to improve and strengthen control lines and continue to clean up,» said New Jersey Forest Fire Service Assistant Warden Trevor Raynor.
With hot, dry weather forecast for the next few days, firefighters want to put out the blaze so they’re ready to fight the next one.
«We’ve seen fires that started earlier in the season this year,» McLaughlin said. «Where we would normally see fires peak in April, we’re starting to see fires start to peak in late March and today, yesterday early April as well.»
Regional temperatures tend to hover in the 60s in mid-April. But the mercury is expected to hit 80 degrees Wednesday afternoon, up from 74 degrees on Tuesday.
«So today is probably a worse fire day than yesterday, so we’re looking to shut down this fire quickly and safely … to be ready for the next wildfire,» Raynor said.
Some 70 homes in Manchester Township and another 100 in nearby Lakehurst had to be evacuated, but all of those structures appeared to be safe Wednesday morning.
«The fire companies’ structure protection units did an outstanding job,» Manchester Police Chief Robert Dolan said.
«They did a great job protecting those homes. So without those efforts…it could have been a lot worse.»
The fire ignited near Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst and the winds helped push some flames toward the facility. But there had been no damage as of Wednesday morning, authorities said.
The cause of Tuesday’s fire remains under investigation.
«Whether or not we can actually determine a cause is yet to be determined. But keep in mind that about 99% of wildfires are caused by humans, either accidentally or intentionally,» McLaughlin said.
“So we will continue to investigate it. In terms of evacuations today, we are confident that we have a good handle on this fire and therefore we are not requiring any additional mandatory evacuations.»
kathryn prociv contributed.