Dozens of residents evacuated as rare wildfire in New Jersey damages homes

A wildfire that tore through a New Jersey town on Sunday afternoon burned more than 170 acres and left one firefighter hospitalized in critical condition, authorities said.

About 100 evacuees were taken to a nearby elementary school to shelter, CNN affiliate News 12 New Jersey reported.
The fire damaged dozens of houses and at least two mixed-use buildings have been destroyed in the fire but “no homes were substantially damaged,” the New Jersey Forest Fire Service said in an on late Sunday night.
      Residents who were evacuated Sunday night from Brick Township were allowed to return home starting 7 p.m., the post said.
        As the fire ripped through the area of Jackson and Brick Township, about 50 miles east of Philadelphia, people who hadn’t yet been evacuated Sunday afternoon started preparing to leave the area should the fire spread further, according to
          “I’ve never seen anything like that before,” Roni Anderson, who said she saw a helicopter flying over the fire Sunday afternoon, told
          Anderson said her husband decided to drive home from work in case they had to evacuate but wasn’t even able to make it into the neighborhood due to the fire, according to
          Instead, she told the publication, her husband parked his car at a store and walked home. The couple packed their important documents and pictures into another care in preparation to evacuate.

          The fire’s cause is under investigation

          The fire was first reported around 1:30 p.m. in Lakewood Township. Fueled by high winds, the flames jumped the Garden State Parkway, New Jersey Forest Fire Service spokesperson Maris Gabliks said during a Sunday press conference.
          Portions of the parkway remained closed early Monday morning as firefighters continued to battle the blaze, a tweet from New Jersey Department of Transportation said.
          While the origin of the fire has been identified, the cause remains under investigation, an update posted to the New Jersey Forest Fire Service said. The agency said that the cause was not from a prescribed burn.
          Officials said in the update that two mixed use buildings were destroyed and some ancillary structures such as sheds were impacted in the residential area.
          As of Sunday night the blaze was at least 50% contained, Gabliks told reporters during the press conference.
          Firefighters are expected to remain in the area battling the blaze throughout the night to fully contain the fire.

          Large wildfires are rare in New Jersey

          The National Weather Service issued a Red Flag Warning and wind advisory in the area late Sunday afternoon, warning of “critical fire weather conditions” due to strong winds up to 50 mph and low relative humidity.
          The warning and wind advisory remain in effect until 5 p.m. and midnight Monday, respectively.
            “Larger wildfires are uncommon or rare for NJ,” CNN Meteorologist Michael Guy said. A combination of very low humidity and warm temperatures in the area could have contributed to the spread.
            “We have extremely strong winds with low humidity that aids the fire in growth but also hampers the fire fighters ability to contain and control the fire,” Gabliks said.

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