Firefighters battled a brush fire in Jersey City, New Jersey, Tuesday afternoon. No injuries were reported from the blaze. Photo courtesy of City of Jersey City
A fast-moving wildfire broke out Tuesday evening in southern New Jersey, forcing the evacuation of more than 170 buildings as the blaze continued to grow into early Wednesday. AccuWeather forecasters warn the summerlike warmth this week will make conditions more favorable for wildfires throughout the rest of the week.
Just before 7 p.m. EDT, the New Jersey Forest Fire Service alerted residents of an active wildfire in Manchester Township, New Jersey, which is located 30 miles east of Trenton. Within four hours, the blaze, which was dubbed Jimmy's Waterhole Fire, grew five times its size.
As of 10 a.m. EDT Wednesday morning, the wildfire had already burned 3,859 acres. The fire in the central part of the state threatened 75 structures and closed off a portion of Route 539. The New Jersey Forest Fire Service stated that the fire was 50% contained Wednesday morning, which is a large improvement since the blaze was only 10% contained on Tuesday evening. The New Jersey Forest Fire Service and local fire departments are working "in unified command" battling the blaze.
No injuries have been reported as of early Wednesday.
"Residents evacuated have been relocated to the Manchester Township High School and are being supported by the American Red Cross, Manchester Township EMS, Manchester Police Department and the Ocean County Sheriff's Department," the New Jersey Forest Fire Service said.
According to CNN, the fire was primarily burning on federal, state and private property in Manchester Township, but it has since jumped to the nearby borough of Lakehurst.
As of Wednesday morning, all evacuations have been lifted and Route 539 and Route 70 have both been reopened.
"While Route 539 and Route 70 have reopened, Forest Fire Service personnel will continue working to improve containment lines along these roads," New Jersey Forecast Fire Services wrote in an update on Wednesday, urging people to stay vigilant when driving through smoky conditions.
AccuWeather forecasters warn the weather Wednesday won't be providing much relief for the blaze. Warm, dry and breezy conditions are expected in New Jersey for the rest of the week. The next chance for rain doesn't come until the weekend.
Red flag watches and warnings were in effect throughout the Northeast Wednesday due to the risk of critical fire weather.
The fire service said Sunday that April marks peak wildfire season in New Jersey, something AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Alan Reppert says applies to the entire eastern United States.
"Wildfire threat in the East typically rises in April as sunshine increases and we start to see warmer days," Reppert said. "This week is a particularly high threat due to the winds we are seeing through the middle of the week, the abnormal warmth and the dry weather we have around now."
At McGuire Air Force Base, 20 miles west of Manchester Township, the Tuesday afternoon high was 74 degrees Fahrenheit with winds gusting up to 24 mph.
Earlier in the day on Tuesday, a seven-alarm brush fire occurred in Jersey City, just outside of New York City, forcing responders to divert traffic in the New Jersey Turnpike area of Caven Point. No injuries were reported as a result of the blaze, and air quality tests in the area were deemed negative for toxins.
The New York City metro area was also warm and gusty Tuesday, with a high temperature of 75 degrees at Central Park and a peak wind gust of 23 mph.
Dangerous fires appeared farther west as well. In western Pennsylvania, a brush fire reportedly affected four structures in Connoquenessing Township, slightly north of Pittsburgh.
In Richmond, Indiana, an industrial fire was contained, with one firefighter suffering an ankle injury battling the blaze.