A massive forest fire that burned thousands of acres of land in the Pine Barrens over the weekend was “incendiary in nature” and “started by some humans,” state forest fire officials said Monday.
“There was not lightning in the area that was reported. There are no power lines that get to the area of origin,” said Brian Corvinus, the lead arson investigator for the New Jersey Forest Fire Service.
Corvinus would not say whether officials believe the fire was sparked by accident or started intentionally.
He also confirmed that the fire was not caused by a prescribed burn, a forest management technique, as had been reported by some media outlets.
The Spring Hill Wildfire, one of the largest in New Jersey in recent memory, began Saturday afternoon in Penn State Forest, in Burlington County, and burned 11,638 acres of land before being fully contained Monday morning.
The Spring Hill Forest Fire is officially 100% contained at 11,638 acres burned. We’re grateful for @NewJerseyDEP, @NJSP, @ReadyNJ, Ocean and Burlington County Firefighters, and many others who worked bravely and tirelessly to contain the fire and keep our residents safe.
— AG Gurbir Grewal (@NewJerseyOAG) April 1, 2019
No injuries were reported, but massive clouds of smoke visible for miles put communities in the Pine Barrens and beyond on edge.
“That’s the scariest part,” said Robyn Bednar, who owns the hot dog and snow cone cart called Hot Diggity Dog in Chatsworth. “When you see that smoke fill up the sky, you know it’s big. When you’re driving, and you’re looking at it, it’s a fear factor for sure.”
Because of the fire’s ferocity, firefighters used a dangerous technique called “blowhole firing” to slow the flames. It requires firefighters to get ahead of the blaze and use handheld torches to set smaller fires in its path.
“That burns up some of that fuel ahead of the fire hoping that it will slow the fire down,” said Forest Fire Service Fire Warden Greg McLaughlin.
Officials said the investigation was ongoing and asked for the public to contact the New Jersey State Police with confidential tips.