12,000 Acres Burned, Progress Made in Wharton Forest Wildfire
The massive wildfire in the Wharton State Forest has now burned 12,000 acres, but the New Jersey Forest Fire Service say they have made "substantial progress" in efforts to contain the blaze.
As of 7:30 pm Monday, the fire was 70% contained, according to officials.
12,000 acres is close to 19 square miles of forest involved in this fire which started at 30-50 acres.
Smoke and haze from the fire continue have been seen and smelled around much of South Jersey. Fire officials say smoke impacts will remain elevated into the evening hours as winds diminish, and partial cloud cover moves over the area.
The wildfire began in a remote section of Wharton State Forest along the Mullica River.
The first word about the wildfire came at 12:24 pm Sunday in a tweet from the New Jersey Forest Fire Service, saying the fire had consumed about 100 acres.
By 10:30 pm Sunday, the Forest Fire Service estimated that the fire had almost tripled in size.
Here is the 7:30 pom Monday update from the new jersey Forest Fire Service...
The New Jersey Forest Fire Service is making substantial progress in containing a wildfire in Wharton State Forest - Washington, Shamong, Hammonton & Mullica Townships - which has reached 12,000 acres in size and is 70% contained.
18 structures are still considered threatened. Structure protection is in place and provided by local volunteer fire departments from Atlantic, Burlington and Ocean counties,
Sunday's last update had a total impact of 2100 acres with 10% containment.
The fire has caused the closure of Rt. 206, from Chew Road to Stokes Road, and Rt. 542, from Green Bank Road to Columbia Road.
Egg Harbor Township Police say the police dispatch center has been receiving calls for a “very strong smell of smoke” in different sections of town. Many people say that they have ash on their vehicles as well.
Haze and the strong smell of a wood fire have now made their way to Atlantic County coastal communities 35 miles away from the fire scene.
Forest Fire Service crews continue to conduct a backfiring operation to aid in containment.
Because of the wildfire, Batsto Village, the Mullica River Campground, and Mullica River Trail are closed. Boat launches along the Mullica River are closed from the Atsion Recreation Area to Batsto Village.
All associated hiking and mountain bike trails are closed to visitors, according to the NJ Forest Fire Service. Pinelands Adventures has suspended kayak and canoe trips. The Paradise Lakes Campground has been evacuated.
Much of the Pinelands remain under a high risk of fire today with the dry and breezy conditions making for ideal fire weather.
Townsquare Media Meteorologist Dan Zarrow says the chance of rain Tuesday should bring help the firefighting effort.