A wildfire that started on Wednesday evening in the Bass River State Forest has swiftly engulfed over 3,100 acres of land. The blaze, menacing and uncontrolled, has compelled nearby residents to evacuate and raised a host of environmental concerns, with officials predicting its spread may reach a staggering 6,000 acres.
The fire began along Allen Road, casting a palpable threat over the surrounding structures and causing the evacuation of around 40 individuals from Timberline Lake Camping Resort situated in the New Gretna section of Bass River Township, Burlington County.
Firefighters from the New Jersey Forest Fire Service are tirelessly battling the blaze, ensuring the safety of six single-family structures that stand in the fire’s potential path.
The wildfire’s relentless march, however, has been alarming. The fire’s size mushroomed from a modest 120 acres on Wednesday evening to a colossal 3,100 acres by Thursday morning. Firefighters on the ground have been grappling with the fire’s extreme behavior and restricted access to the heart of the wildfire.
As a safety measure, multiple roads in the area have been shut down to public access. The New Jersey Forest Fire Service continues to urge citizens to steer clear of the affected region, to ensure public safety and facilitate their firefighting operations.
The Bass River State Forest, a natural gem straddling the border of Ocean and Burlington counties and roughly 25 miles north of Atlantic City, has started to send plumes of smoke southward into Cape May and Atlantic counties. The drifting smoke has stirred concerns about the potential impact on air quality in these regions.
This wildfire represents the second significant fire incident in New Jersey this week alone, following a successfully contained 158-acre wildfire in the White Oaks Wildlife Management Area in Gloucester County.
The prevailing dry conditions statewide have given rise to a spate of wildfires in recent days. Fire officials have acknowledged the beneficial effects of prescribed burns conducted earlier in mitigating these blazes, but unfavorable weather conditions continue to pose significant challenges to their containment efforts.
As of the latest update, there have been no reported injuries. Seasonal residents who had previously evacuated have been given the green light to return to their homes. As for the cause of the fire, it remains a mystery. Authorities have launched an investigation to uncover its origins.
Situated in the heart of the Pinelands National Reserve, the Bass River State Forest holds the distinction of being the first forest acquired by the state of New Jersey in 1905. This one-million-acre reserve, renowned for its biodiversity, including rare plants and animals, serves as a critical water conservation site and a much-loved recreational spot, featuring over 12 miles of marked trails.
According to its website, Bass River State Forest is New Jersey’s first state forest, established in 1905 for public recreation, water conservation, wildlife and timber management. In June 1933, Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) Camp No. 7 (later changed to Camp S-55) was established here and the CCC “boys” planted trees and built camping structures, picnic pavilions, and roads that are still in use today.
There are 176 tent and trailer sites with fire rings and picnic tables. Flush toilets, showers, and laundry facilities are within walking distance of all sites. ‘
There are also six cabins located along the north shore of Lake Absegami containing a living room and fireplace; two bunk rooms with double-deck bunks; kitchen with running water, electric stove, refrigerator; bathroom with shower, toilet, and sink; and electricity.
Featured image from Bass River State Forest.