TOMS RIVER, N.J., April 24 (UPI) -- Dry windy weather fueled two wildfires Thursday that had moved across hundreds of acres in the New Jersey Pine Barrens.
A fire has scorched about 200 acres in Ocean County east of the Garden State Parkway and close to Barnegat Bay, officials said. While no damage to buildings was reported, about 50 were at risk and a middle school in the area closed early.
In Cumberland County on the southern edge of the Pine Barrens, a fire continued to burn in the Edward G. Bevan Fish and Wildlife Management Area. Officials said the fire had moved across 1,500 acres since it was reported Wednesday.
The Pine Barrens is a large area of woodland known for its sandy soil and pine and oak forest, a region of near-wilderness in one of the country's most densely populated states. Fire is an integral part of the ecosystem's life cycle but human settlement in the area, especially outside the Pinelands National Reserve, has put buildings and people at risk.
Officials in Ocean County closed Toms River Intermediate South school early so firefighters could use the building as a staging area.
Steve Holmes, a spokesman for the New Jersey Forest Fire Service, said crews were setting fires around the perimeter to try to deprive the main fire of fuel.
We try to box the fire in, like the fire is in the middle of that box," he told the Philadelphia Inquirer.