Forest Fire Caused by Illegal Fireworks Is the Largest Wildfire in New Jersey’s Pinelands This Year

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A large wildfire spread over 4,300 acres in Wharton State Forest, New Jersey, caused by illegal fireworks on July 4th. As of Monday night, firefighters had contained 90% of the fire.

Key Takeaways:

  • The wildfire, named Tea Time Hill Wildfire, was ignited by illegal fireworks on July 4th and spread to 4,300 acres.
  • As of Monday night, the fire was 90% contained, and the New Jersey Forest Fire Service continues to work to ensure public safety.
  • The public is advised to stay cautious of smoke and avoid using fireworks in state parks.

The Start of the Tea Time Hill Wildfire

A 4,300-acre wildfire, dubbed the Tea Time Hill Wildfire, was ignited by illegal fireworks on July 4th in Wharton State Forest in Burlington County, New Jersey.

According to New Jersey Forest Fire Service officials, this blaze, which authorities believe was started by someone using fireworks, was 90% contained by Monday night.

The fire began late Thursday in a section of the forest within Tabernacle and was discovered early Friday morning by a lookout stationed at the Apple Pie Hill Fire Tower.

Rapid Spread and Containment Efforts

Fire service officials identified fireworks as the cause of the wildfire. The fire initially covered about 100 acres along the Batona Trail and quickly expanded to 1,200 acres within hours.

By Saturday, it had consumed 4,000 acres and eventually reached 4,300 acres. Ground crews employed backfires—controlled burns to remove fuel from the fire’s path—to help manage and contain the wildfire.

As of Sunday, the wildfire was 65% contained and increased to 90% contained by Monday night.

The fire’s rapid spread necessitated the deployment of helicopters, which dropped hundreds of gallons of water to support firefighting efforts.

Despite the extensive area affected, no injuries were reported, and there were no immediate threats to structures. The Batona Campground, used as a staging area, was evacuated to ensure safety.

Safety Precautions and Public Advisories

Officials warn that smoke might be visible for a while as firefighters continue their work. Drivers should be careful because of the smoke.

Visitors to state parks should remember that fireworks are not allowed to prevent such fires.

Firefighters will stay in the area to keep the fire under control until heavy rain helps to fully stop it.

Historical Context and Fire Statistics

This is the biggest fire in New Jersey this year, much larger than the fire in April that burned 510 acres in Wharton State Forest.

However, it is not among the largest in New Jersey’s history. Some historical wildfires have burned tens of thousands of acres.

For instance, the largest wildfire of 2023 began in Bass River State Forest in May and covered over 5,000 acres.

New Jersey’s wildfire season typically spans from mid-March through mid-May, but recent trends show significant wildfires occurring as early as February and extending into the summer months.

Last year marked the state’s busiest fire season in over a decade, with 1,034 wildfires burning 17,979 acres, including 14 major wildfires exceeding 100 acres each.

Weather Conditions and Future Precautions

Extreme heat conditions made the wildfire’s spread worse. Forecasts predicted that temperatures in New Jersey would reach up to 110 degrees in some areas, like Trenton, with most places experiencing temperatures in the low 100s.

Such high temperatures can dry out vegetation, making it easier for fires to start and spread quickly.

Additionally, thunderstorms were expected, bringing relief and new dangers. While rain from thunderstorms can help firefighters by providing much-needed moisture to control the fire, lightning from these storms can potentially start new fires, especially in dry areas.

To stay safe during wildfire season, especially in hot and dry conditions, it’s important to follow these tips:

  • Avoid Fireworks: Fireworks are illegal in state parks and forests because they can easily start wildfires, as seen with the Tea Time Hill Wildfire.
  • Stay Informed: Follow local news and weather reports to stay informed about wildfire risks and weather conditions in your area.
  • Be Prepared: Have an emergency plan in place. Know evacuation routes and have a kit ready with essentials like water, food, medications, and important documents.
  • Report Suspicious Activity: If you see someone using fireworks or notice any suspicious activity that could lead to a fire, report it immediately to authorities.

Firefighters will continue to monitor and control the fire until significant rainfall helps fully extinguish it.

Anyone with information about the fire should call the New Jersey State Park Police tip line at 844-727-5847 (844-PARK-TIP).

 

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