New Jersey Burning

After dealing with a strong Nor’easter and heavy rains for the last two weeks of April, New Jersey has dried out quite rapidly in May. After having 0.86 inches of rain in the first day and a half of the month, Northwestern Middlesex County has received just a total of 0.69 inches over the last two weeks. Ten of the last fourteen days have had no measureable rain whatsoever while temperatures have steadily risen.

On Monday, winds picked up significantly during the morning and temperatures topped out in the low to mid 80s while conditions remained dry. Those conditions continued into much of Tuesday before a line of strong to severe thunderstorms moved across the Garden State. Consequently, things were ripe for a major fire to break out, and it did in Southern New Jersey. A flare from an F-16 fighter jet that was performing a manuver over a nearby gunnery range, was responsible for producing a severe brush fire that quickly scorched some 12,000 acres, or 19 miles of land in a region of the Pinelands along the border of Burlington and Ocean Counties according to a report in the Newark Star-Ledger.

The fire grew rapidly thanks to the dry conditions and gusty winds, and forced the evacuation of some two thousand homes in nearby Stafford Township. The area of concern is located some 25 miles to the North of Atlantic City, and at the Southeastern edge of the over one million acre Pinelands preserve. Despite the difficulties, local high schools such as Barnegat and Southern Regional were opened as of the time of the report while the Parkway was still in operation. Fire Departments from many municipalities in New Jersey including those in Ocean County, Cape May County, and even as far away as Sussex and Warren Counties are working to get the fire under control. New Jersey is not the only state in the country presently dealing with brush fires. Florida, Georgia, and California have also been coping with their share of fire troubles as well.