Wildfire in Wharton State Forest reaches 11,000 acres in size; 50% contained

The New Jersey Forest Fire Service is continuing its efforts to contain a wildfire in the Wharton State Forest in Burlington County, which continues to grow in size. (6abc)

The New Jersey Forest Fire Service is continuing its efforts to contain a wildfire in the Wharton State Forest in Burlington County, which continues to grow in size. (6abc)

This story originally appeared on 6abc.

The New Jersey Forest Fire Service is continuing its efforts to contain a wildfire in the Wharton State Forest in Burlington County, which continues to grow in size.

As of late Monday afternoon, officials said the blaze – dubbed the Mullica River Fire – has grown to 11,000 acres and is now 50% contained.

It’s projected the forest fire could eventually reach 15,000 acres, making it the largest fire since 2007. They said it looks like it will be larger than the Spring Hill fire of 2019 that burned more than 11,600 acres.

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“We have essentially ruled out natural causes and so we’ll continue to investigate the fire,” Gregory McLaughlin, chief and state fire warden for the New Jersey Forest Fire Service, said during a Monday afternoon press conference.

But, officials fell short of saying someone intentionally set the Wharton state forest on fire.

“Illegal campfires and fires that aren’t fully extinguished continue to pose a great risk,” said Shawn LaTourette, commissioner of the NJ Department of Environmental Protection.

The fire stretches through Washington, Shamong, Hammonton, and Mullica townships.

Full containment of the fire is expected by Wednesday.

No injuries have been reported and no homes are in danger, but 18 structures were threatened, including a blueberry farm and the paradise lake campground.

“It’s been a really long time since I actually saw fire whirls on a fire, and yesterday I saw several of them. That’s extreme fire intensity,” said McLaughlin.

Forest Fire Service crews will continue conducting backfiring operations throughout the day to aid in containment, officials said.

There are also several road closures in place:

  • Route 206 – from Chew Road to Stokes Road
  • Route 542 – from Green Bank Road to Columbia Road

Batsto Village and all associated hiking and mountain bike trails are closed to visitors.

The Atsion Recreation Area is also closed.

The Mullica River Campground, Lower Forde Campground, Mullica River Trail, and boat launches along the Mullica River are closed from the Atsion Recreation Area to Batsto Village.
These closures will remain in effect until further notice.

Pinelands Adventures has suspended kayak and canoe trips. The Paradise Lakes Campground has been evacuated.

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