Stubborn Fires Persist In Spots In Pinelands

Posted: April 07, 1995

MANCHESTER TOWNSHIP — Firefighters in the Pinelands declared yesterday morning that they had control of the largest forest fire to race through the state in nearly a quarter century.

Pockets of fire still flared within the 19,800-acre portion of the forest that had burned since the blaze began around noon on Tuesday. But officials were satisfied that they had established a sufficient ring of bulldozed trails and backfires around the fires to contain them within that area.

The cause of the fire was still under investigation by section fire warden Bill Edwards. However, State Forest Fire Service Chief Dave Harrison said Wednesday that he suspected the cause to be arson. The fire is believed to have begun in the Pasadena neighborhood of Manchester Township.

No homes and no injuries were reported over the course of the entire incident, but when the fire was at its peak on Tuesday, more than 300 families in Manchester and Lacey townships were evacuated from their homes. An estimated 300 state and volunteer firefighters participated in the operation.

Yesterday, that force was limited to about 30 state Forest Fire Service workers, who tended to the 15-foot high fires, which still had about 2,000 acres left to consume, said Jeff Brower, assistant division fire warden for the state Forest Fire Service. On Tuesday, the flames had reached heights of nearly 100 feet.

While many small animals such as insects and rodents may have perished in the fire, Brower said that larger animals such as deer, wild turkey, pheasants and rabbits would have escaped to safety in outlying areas.

"But they'll be back as soon as the fire departs, foraging for acorns and nuts uncovered by the fire," he said.

Set against a backdrop of charred, smoking earth and bare, blackened tree trunks, their presence, he said, will return some color - albeit moving - to the forest.

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