Dozens of homes, businesses damaged in 170-acre wildfire in Lakewood
LAKEWOOD – The threat of fire continued Monday after a wind-fueled wildfire closed the Garden State Parkway, burned at least 170 acres and damaged dozens of homes and commercial buildings in Lakewood and Brick. Several smaller fires also burned across the state on Sunday.
The New Jersey Forest Fire Service also said that one of its firefighters is in critical condition at a nearby hospital. The East Dover Fire Company identified the firefighter as "one of their own" who also worked for the Forest Fire Service. The firefighter suffered a "major medical emergency" while protecting the Lakewood Cogen Plant, the company said.
Firefighters worked all night on the huge blaze that started about 1:30 p.m. Sunday off Airport Road, according to Lakewood Fire Chief John Yahr. One commercial building was “totally destroyed” by the fire, according to Yahr, while the other suffered significant damage.
The Forest Fire Service on Monday said the area had not had a fire in 40 years leaving plenty of thick growth to fuel the fire.
The New Jersey Fire Service said the origin of the fire has been identified while a cause is under investigation. News 12 New Jersey identified the location of the “apparent start” of the fire as 150 Airport Road just to the west of the toll plaza for Exit 89 of the Parkway. The agency said that a prescribed burn was not to blame and would not confirm where the fire started.
The fire crossed the Parkway and damaged the roof of the Lowes store on Route 70 just east of the Parkway and threatened the Hilton Garden Inn, according to Brick police.
Brick Mayor John Ducey said 29 homes in the Brick Lake Park neighborhood were left with damaged fences and yards. A boat and an above-ground pool also were damaged by the fire. Only one resident has not been able to return home, he said.
The Parkway was closed in both directions as the fire, whipped by gusty winds, approached the edge of the southbound lanes and huge plumes of smoke towered above the area. Both directions were reopened by 10:30 p.m.
Yahr said the fire “quickly escalated to a third alarm” because of the Red Flag Warning, which is issued when weather conditions can lead to the spread of wildfire. The Red Flag Warning will remain in place until 5 p.m. Monday.
Air quality was not an issue with the fire, according to the Forest Fire Service, as the wind was helping to lift the smoke high and towards the ocean
A Red Flag Warning remains in effect for most of the state again Monday with winds of 15-25 mph (gusts to 40 mph) and dry air combining to create favorable conditions for rapid spread of wildfires.
“It means high fire danger. The combination of low humidity, dry brush, and strong winds create an environment that is conducive to rapid spread of wildfires,” New Jersey 101.5 Chief Meteorologist Dan Zarrow said. “Please be very smart about any outdoor burning today.
Smaller fires were also reported around the state on Sunday.
A small brush fire along the Delaware River in the afternoon caused a building fire at the Rivers Bend Apartment, according to the Salem Fire Department.
A fire in a mulch pile spread to a building in Hillsborough, according to IAFF Local 4897 Hillsborough Fire Marshals.
A large brush fire in the Meadowlands was contained and didn’t threaten any buildings or structures, according to the North Arlington Fire Department.
There was also a fire at the 60 Acre Reserve development in Jackson, which led to an evacuation, according to Jackson police.
Contact reporter Dan Alexander at Dan.Alexander@townsquaremedia.com or via Twitter @DanAlexanderNJ