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2 Forest Fires Burn In Ocean County, NJ

BEACHWOOD, N.J. (CBS) -- Crews have fully contained a forest fire in Ocean County, New Jersey that forced hundreds of evacuations in the area.

Meanwhile, a second large fire continues to burn in Berkeley Township, about five miles away.

The first forest fire started at about 11:42 a.m. on the border of Beachwood and Berkeley Township in Ocean County.

The fire is reportedly near at least 40 homes.  In total, 621 homes were evacuated.

Kristy Mackown was one of the first to call in the fire around a quarter to noon. "Earlier I was scared to death. The fire came right up to our property line."

She adds, "I'm a little panicked right now because it looks really bad."

As of Thursday afternoon, the blaze was still burning in the area of Grand Central Parkway and Northern Boulevard.

The Fire Service dug trenches and set back fires to protect homes along Grand Central Parkway.

Several homes had sustained some damage due to smoke and heat but were not total losses.

fire oc_chopper3watermark
(credit: Chopper 3)

Strong winds are being blamed for causing the fire to spread and officials say this is a class 5 fire, the most dangerous type.

Ocean County Sheriff Michael Mastronardy says, "Being dry, this is probably the worst conditions, I'm sure the fire service will tell you that and we were having discussions about that this morning so we were prepared."

PHOTOS: Crews Battle Large Forest Fire In Ocean County

As a result of the fire, students at Toms River Intermediate South school were evacuated. A posting on the Toms River Regional School District website stated the following:

At the request of the Ocean County Sheriff's Department due to a fire in the area, all students from Intermediate South are being evacuated to the Pine Belt Arena. All students are safe and will be released from the Pine Belt Arena at approximately 2 p.m. to their normal bus stops. Parents should not go to Intermediate South to pick up their children. Students may be signed out from the Pine Belt Arena. Again, all students are safe and this is just a precaution.

"Throughout the day we had to pull out due to the extreme heat and the fire," Forest Fire Warden Brian Corvenus said.

Firefighters battled the blaze by air and on the ground with more than 50 engines.

"The conditions today were very, very appropriate for fast spreading wildfire, fast developing wildfire," Greg McLaughlin of the New Jersey Forest Fire Division said.

As of 10:20 p.m., officials say the fire is 100 percent contained with 307 acres burned. Residents of Pinewald should expect smoke conditions into the night.

In total, 621 homes were evacuated.

Late Thursday night, Berkeley Township Police announced residents could return to their homes. A heavy police and fire presence will be in the area throughout the night.

So far, no injuries have been reported.

In total, the New Jersey Fire Service is battling five forest fires on Thursday.

Crews are fighting a second large fire in Berkeley Township, about five miles away from the original fire.

It broke out just after 4 p.m. near Dover Road and Pinewald-Keswick, burning 150 acres, and now only 50 percent contained.

Second Berkeley Township Forest Fire
(credit: Chopper 3)

It is not threatening any homes. Fire service will be out throughout the night to ensure no further problems arise.

Officials expect about 230 acres to have been destroyed by the time the blaze burns out.

Police say Pinewald-Keswick Road from Double Trouble Road to Route 530 are closed in both directions.

Residents should use caution as a smoke condition will be present. This could be hazardous to driving and could agitate pre-existing respiratory conditions.

In addition, the New Jersey Fire Service is fighting brush fires in Manchester Township and Lacey Township, Ocean County as well as in Franklin Township, Gloucester County.





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