Fire crews battle New Jersey blaze that threatened 40 homes

MEDFORD, N.J. (AP) — Fire crews in New Jersey have almost completely contained one major fire and are reporting good progress in battling another blaze that for a time threatened several dozen homes.

New Jersey Forest Fire Service officials said Saturday that the Flatiron wildfire blaze in Medford in Burlington County started just after midnight and was burning toward 40 homes before crews managed to move the blaze away from the structures.

Residents weren’t evacuated but were protected within their homes, some using garden hoses to help as crews worked in the backyards to conduct backfires and burnout operations, officials said.

Saturday afternoon, officials reported “significant progress” in fighting the fire; they said four structures still threatened were being protected by local fire crews. A structure set apart from the homes and described as some type of gazebo in the forest was earlier reported destroyed.

Officials also said the new blaze had burned about 180 acres (73 hectares) and was 60% contained. Officials earlier reported only 20% containment but said they hoped that would increase once the flames burned the rest of a 220-acre (89-hectare) containment area bordered by such things as roads, canals and streams.

Firefighters said the earlier fire burning in the Bass River State Forest, which stretches across Ocean and Burlington counties in the Pinelands, had been almost completely contained. The blaze, the largest in the state this year, had burned about 5,550 acres (2,246 hectares) since Wednesday.

About 40 people were evacuated as a precaution Thursday from a camping area and a long stretch of New Jersey’s Garden State Parkway, the state’s major north-south highway, was closed but was reopened Friday morning.