October 22, 2008

Fire Consumes Acres of N.J. State Forest

A wildfire in Wharton State Forest in the New Jersey Pine Barrens spread through several hundred acres of pine and oak woods Tuesday.

Route 206, a major north-south route through the pines, was closed over night, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

Stephen Maurer, an assistant state fire warden, said the blaze might spread to 1,000 acres.

"Fortunately it's in a very uninhabited section of the Wharton State Forest," he said.

A small number of homes and businesses along Route 206 were evacuated, but no damage to structures or injuries had been reported late Tuesday, NBC10 in Philadelphia reported.

The fire was reported in the afternoon. By late evening, firefighters said they had it surrounded and hoped to hold their lines through the night. They planned to resume fighting it from the air after daybreak.

The Pine Barrens, a large area of mixed pine and oak on sandy soil interrupted by maple and cedar swamps, depends on frequent fires to maintain ecological balance. But the area is also crossed by roads and dotted with houses.