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Wildfire at Wharton State Forest near Atco Dragway burns 1,700 acres; 95% contained

Wharton State Forest wildfire now 85% contained: NJFFS
Wharton State Forest wildfire now 85% contained: NJFFS 00:30

WATERFORD TOWNSHIP, N.J. (CBS) -- A wildfire at the Wharton State Forest in Waterford Township, Camden County has grown to 1,700 acres, the New Jersey Forest Fire Service said Tuesday. 

The wildfire, named the "Dragway Wildfire," is 95% contained and burning in the area of the Atco Dragway and Jackson Road.

On Monday, the NJFFS said it's expected to take crews two to three days to contain the fire.

"Here in New Jersey, just seems like we're having wildfires 12 months a year, 365 days a year," Bill Donnelly, the assistant state fire warden, said. 

The NJFFS said the wildfire's containment area includes land in Medford and Shamong in Burlington County. 

Crews are improving containment lines and preparing to utilize a backfiring operation in order to burn fuel ahead of the main body of fire. The fire was first reported by the Medford fire tower and divided with the Apple Pie Hill fire tower, the NJFFS said. 

No structures are threatened, but the NJFFS said Monday that Jackson Road will remain closed until further notice. The NJFFS is asking motorists to watch for firefighters working on the side of the road once the road reopens. 

The NJFFS said Forest Fire Staff will remain on scene to monitor control lines and address areas of concern until the area gets significant precipitation. 

Smoke might be visible for "an extended period of time" while crews work to put out the fire, according to the NJFFS. Drivers should also remain cautious of the smoke. 

Tim Maguire, who lives two blocks away from the fire, says while wildfires are always in the back of his mind since he lives in the Pinelands, but he's never seen it quite like this.

"I was a little concerned last year when they had huge amounts of wildfires, but here we are now," Maguire said. 

The NJFFS says this fire marks the 13th major wildfire just this year. Compare that to last year at this time – where there were only two major wildfires.

New Jersey Forest Fire Service

"I think it's just because it's been dry and people have gotten complacent. People need to be a little more careful when they're out in the forest with things as dry as they are," Donnelly said. 

Donnelly says his crews are certainly tired. Heading into the fall, the NJFFS remains alert.

"Based on long range forecasts and everything, I don't know if there's an end in sight any time soon based on our meteorologists and stuff they are saying. They're looking that we can go into a dry fall," Donnelly said. 

Neighbors like Maguire thank the NJFFS and local aid for all their doing to keep the community safe.

"These guys are pros," Maguire said. "They know what they're doing."

The cause of the fire remains under investigation and no injuries were reported. 

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