Wildfire in Wharton State Forest consumes more than 400 acres of land

The fire was first spotted around 9 a.m. Wednesday and called into the forest fire service.

Jim Murdoch and Matt Trapani

Apr 24, 2024, 4:14 PM

Updated 31 days ago

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New Jersey's first major wildfire of the year broke out Wednesday morning in Wharton State Forest in the Waterford section of Camden County.
Dozens of firefighters came to the scene to keep the fire from spreading further.
As of 8 p.m. Wednesday, the New Jersey Forest Fire Service said the fire consumed around 400 acres of land and is about 75% contained.
The fire was first spotted around 9 a.m. and called into the Forest Fire Service.
"When we arrived on location, the fire was approximately 50 acres in size as units arrived on location. The fire was burning low ground and was hung up for the most part but there were still active parts of the fire," said Jay Wyatt, a section forest fire warden for the NJFFS.
Despite recent rains this month, the area has been dry for several days, with low humidity and gusty winds, creating conditions that allow the spread of wildfires.
"The soil drains very quickly and therefore the fuel moisture drops very quickly the water dissipates the sun still hitting the ground because there is no leaf out yet so the fuel dries very quickly this time of year," said Wyatt.
The fire stayed away from homes and buildings, but crews closed a state-run campground and some local roads.
This year's fire season got off to a slow start, but New Jersey state Firewarden Bill Donnelly cautioned against getting lured into complacency, with many months still left to go.
"Last year, we started early with our fire season but no one knows for sure what we are set up for looking at some of the long-range forecasts they are talking hot and dry for the summer here in New Jersey so we could be busy again in June, July and August," said Donnelly.
Forest fire crews will remain at the command center while the fire is ongoing.
WATCH: Chopper 12 flies over Wharton State Forest fire


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