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Fireworks cause largest forest fire of the year in N.J. Pinelands



Fireworks cause largest forest fire of the year in N.J. Pinelands

A forest fire that has been burning in Wharton State Forest in Burlington County since the Fourth of July was started by fireworks, state officials said Sunday.

The wildfire, which has grown to 4,000 acres, was discovered near the Batona Campground and Apple Pie Hill by the New Jersey Forest Fire Service Friday morning.

A fireworks device lit inside the forest started the blaze late Wednesday night, state investigators found.

As of Sunday at 1 p.m., the wildfire has grown to 4,000 acres and is 65% contained, according to the fire service.

This blaze is the largest the state has seen this year, about four times the size of a wildfire that burned 510 acres at Wharton State Forest in April, state officials said.

It is not among the largest wildfires New Jersey has ever seen. Since the 1920s, some wildfires have burned through tens of thousands of acres of forest in the state.

Tea Time Hill Wildfire in Wharton State Forest.

The largest forest fire in 2023 started in the Bass River State Forest in May and burned over 5,000 acres, according to statistics from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection.

Wildfire season in New Jersey has historically been from mid-March through mid-May, but has lasted longer during the past decade, with major wildfires occurring in February and extending into summer.

Last year was the state’s busiest fire season in more than a decade, with the Forest Fire Service responding to 1,034 wildfires that burned 17,979 acres in New Jersey. Fourteen of these fires were considered to be major wildfires, burning over 100 acres each, according to the DEP.

Tea Time Hill Wildfire in Wharton State Forest

Most wildfires in New Jersey are caused by people, according to state officials.

Helicopters were on the scene dropping off hundreds of gallons of water to help the firefighting efforts in Wharton this weekend, according to officials.

Fireworks are prohibited in New Jersey’s state parks, forests and recreation areas.

No structures are threatened and the campground has been evacuated.

Anyone with further information about the fire that could aid in the investigation is asked to call the New Jersey State Park Police tip line at 844-PARK-TIP (844-727-5847).

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Nyah Marshall may be reached at [email protected].

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