🔥 The containment area of the Kanouse Wildfire in West Milford shrunk Thursday

🔥 Fires also broke out Thursday in Brick and the Martinsville section of Bridgewater

🔥 Weekend rain will help make conditions less conducive for wildfires to spread

WEST MILFORD — The Kanouse Wildfire is proving to be stubborn with its containment area decreasing as the fire burns for a third day as the danger of the fast spread of fire remains.

A lack of rain over the past 10 days makes conditions ideal for wildfire development even though the "enhanced risk" isn't in effect by the National Weather Service, according to New Jersey 101.5 Chief Meteorologist Dan Zarrow. You still need to be careful with lit cigarettes and other material that could ignite a fire.

"There will be a couple of small improvements to fire danger parameters Friday. The breeze will be calmer, and humidity will creep upward. However, the danger level for wildfire spread is still very high," Zarrow said.

The fire in Passaic County burned through 972 acres as of Friday morning. Its containment area fell from 40% in the morning to 25% in the late afternoon but was back up to 55% in the morning. Five structures were evacuated while nine residential buildings and one commercial building was threatened.

Forest Fire Service officials at a Friday morning briefing said the fire flared up on the east side of Echo Lake late Thursday afternoon. The spot fires were covered by thick smoke and were only seen by a flight above the fire.

Some of the spot fires were the result of dead ash trees, which become like paper and easily drop their branches. The trees are often in clusters that allow the fires to climb and cast off embers.

Approximately 50 firefighters are on scene with some digging fire lines by hand and with a bulldozer.  Water is also being dropped from single-engine air tankers and a helicopter.

Kanouse Wildfire in West Milford
Kanouse Wildfire in West Milford (NJ DEP)

Different fire conditions

There are differences in the conditions of the Kanouse wildfire and the Jimmy's Water Hole fire that burned 3,859 acres in Ocean County earlier in the week. In the Pinelands region, the landscape is flat which allows vehicles and heavy equipment to get in more easily, according to John Cecil, Assistant Commissioner State Parks, Forests, and Historic Sites.

"Here in the northern part of the state we have different terrain. A different forest type. We have oak-hickory and steep conditions so we have to work by hand in many instances," Cecil said. "We have forest fire staff on the mountainside digging handlines working that fire up close and personal in many regards."

The impact to wildlife has not been significant as the animals "perceive" the fire and by instinct stay ahead of the fire. In the long run the fire will be beneficial as the woods will "green up" once the fire is completely out.

No firefighters have been injured in the fire, according to officials.

Reported wildfires around New Jersey 4/10-4/13
Reported wildfires around New Jersey 4/10-4/13 (Canva)

Wildfires around the state

A brush fire also developed along Long Road in the Martinsville section of Bridgewater late Thursday afternoon. MyCentralJersey.com reported smoke from the fire could be seen in Somerset. The Forest Fire Service sent a plane to drop water on the fire.

Flames also broke out in the area of Cedar Island Drive and Mandalay Road in Brick, according to a report by News 12 New Jersey. Residents were forced to park in Angela Hibbard Park for a time while firefighters attacked the fire.

It was the second brush fire of the week in Brick. A brush fire in the area of Alameda and East Coral Drive burned 10 acres Tuesday night, according to the Forest Fire Service. No injuries or property damages were reported.

Zarrow says conditions will become less conducive for fire during the weekend and early in the coming week.

"We will get some much-needed rain this weekend. Specifically Saturday afternoon and Monday morning. It will definitely help. But it's not the widespread soaking we really need to tamp down fire danger and drought concerns," Zarrow said. "Unfortunately, the long-range forecast for the second half of April looks pretty dry overall."

Forest Fire Service officials said they need at least an inch of soaking rain to put the fire out completely.

Firefighters at the Kanouse Wildfire in West Milford
Firefighters at the Kanouse Wildfire in West Milford (NJ DEP)

Dan Alexander is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at dan.alexander@townsquaremedia.com

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