A wildfire burning in the New Jersey Pine Barrens is now 100 percent contained, officials said on Tuesday evening.
The forest fire was first spotted on Sunday afternoon in Woodland Township, Burlington County, and quickly moved east into Manchester in Ocean County.
New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection spokesperson Lawrence Hajna said 50 firefighters — with 15 trucks and aerial crews — battled to limit its spread. By noon on Tuesday, containment stood at 65 percent.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation, but Hajna said dry conditions allowed it to extend to about a thousand acres.
“Right now it’s so dry that I would anticipate that it will continue smoldering throughout a good part of the week,” he said.
Dave Robinson, the state climatologist at Rutgers University, said the recent dry spell is about as extreme as it gets in the short term, and is known as a “flash drought.”
“We’ve had above average temperatures, virtually no precipitation for the last three weeks, and with that, rainfall deficits are accumulating in the multiple inch range,” he said.
That not only raises the risk for wildfire, Robinson said, but also challenges farmers. Normally, growers actually prefer it to be too dry rather than too wet. “But when it gets this dry and they have to put this much water on it,” he said, “it costs money to run those pumps and to keep things hydrated.”
The good news, Robinson added, is that the parched conditions are coming as summer ends. The dry period is also likely to end soon, with rain expected at the end of this week.
As of Tuesday morning, no one had been injured in the fire and there had been no property damage.