BEACHWOOD - Fire crews are monitoring a large brush fire that began in the western part of Beachwood near Pinewald Road and is now 100 percent contained.
A second fire at Dover Road and Pinewald-Keswick Road is 50 percent contained as of 10:30 p.m. Thursday. It is estimated to have consumed 150 acres, but is not threatening any homes.
Large plumes of smoke could be seen from several miles away. Several homes are reported to have been damaged by the fire, and more than 300 acres have burned.
The fire spread to Bayville and Berkeley and more than 600 homes were evacuated. Firefighters say they have set backfires in the woods in an effort to save the homes.
Evacuees are worried about the winds and the threat of blowing embers.
Toms River Intermediate South School was evacuated as a precaution, and the students were transported to the Pine Belt Arena, according to the Ocean County Sheriff's Office.
Residents say they only had time to grab the necessities. "I picked some pictures," says Kristy Mackown. "Most of our stuff is online now, thank God. But really I thought I would know what to do in a situation like this. I thought it would be easy. It was the most difficult thing. It was not easy at all."
Rick Low says he has been through this before and knows all too well how dangerous these brush fires can be. "This is our second go-around," he says. "I lived in the pine barrens all my life. When this happened 10 years ago, homes just go up like that. They're done."
There have been no injuries reported as a result of the fire.