BEACHWOOD - Residents forced to evacuate because of a brush fire in Beachwood are back in their homes, while crews continue to battle another brush fire in Berkeley Township.
The Beachwood blaze, nicknamed the "Continental Fire," is fully contained but still burning. It started just before noon Thursday near the intersection of Grand Central Parkway and Berkeley Avenue. Fire officials say it burned 307 acres.
State Forest Fire Service spokesman Greg McLaughlin says residents of 620 homes returned to their houses late Thursday.
Three workers and a homeowner in Berkeley Township say they were never told to evacuate, and found themselves trapped as the flames approached. They used a garden hose to spray the house and yard and escaped the fire.
Another blaze in Berkeley, dubbed the "Cross Roads Fire," is still being battled. Officials say the fire, which continues to burn in a heavily wooded area off Pinewald-Keswick Road, is not threatening any homes.
Authorities say the blaze is about 80 percent contained and is estimated to span about 220 acres.
"It's in a remote area, there is a very good natural barrier protecting and containing that fire, it's not burning aggressively at this time, it's just creeping around," says Brian Corvinus, of the state Forest Fire Service.
The two fires were among several in New Jersey, fueled by high winds and dry conditions.
A fire in Wharton State Forest in Burlington County is not contained and is estimated to have burned 200 acres.
Officials in Gloucester and Franklinville are fighting a fire that spanned 569 acres. As of 3 p.m. Friday it was 80 percent contained.
A fire in Cumberland County in Downe Township is now contained, but consumed 1,535 acres, mostly in the Edward G. Bevens Fish and Wildlife Management area.
No injuries were reported in any of the fires.
Officials say residents in these areas should use caution as a smoke condition will be present. This could be hazardous to driving and could agitate pre-existing respiratory conditions.
Corvinus says he has never seen a fire spread as quickly as yesterday's Continental fire did, and that Berkeley Township and Beachwood residents are very lucky it wasn't worse.