The Maple Branch forest fire in Wharton State Forest has grown Tuesday evening, but has been mostly contained by firefighters.
98 acres have burned in the area of Tylertown, Washington Township, Burlington County. That grew from 40 acres Tuesday afternoon. However, 75% of the fire has been contained by crews. Firefighters were performing a backfiring maneuver to help contain the flames, the New Jersey Forest Fire Service said.
Batsto Village and its surrounding hiking trails were closed Tuesday morning, state Department of Environmental Protection spokesperson Caryn Shinske said.
Buttonwood Campground was also shut down Tuesday, the Fire Service said. However, Bulltown Road reopened late Tuesday, according to the Fire Service’s Twitter account.
A backfiring is done by Forest Fire Service staff, who intentionally set a separate fire to consume fuel in the larger blaze’s path. This is done to stop the fire from spreading or to change its direction, the Fire Service said.
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Structures are no longer threatened by the blaze, the Fire Service said.
The combination of a dry forest floor and gusty winds helped spark the fire. Winds gusted in the 20s while the 10-hour fuel moisture, the amount of water in 0.25 inch to 1 inch in diameter objects such as tree branches, was low as well. Relative humdiity values over 50% likely prevented the fire from spreading further, Meteorologist Joe Martucci said.
The forest is still recovering from a wildfire that burned nearly 15,000 acres in the Pine Barrens last month. Officials declared the wildfire New Jersey’s largest since 2007.
That fire threatened areas near Batsto Village as well.
Firefighters believe that blaze was set accidentally as a result of illegal campfire activity.
Contact Eric Conklin: