Fire Spreads Over 260 Acres in Wharton State Forest in New Jersey

Firefighters yesterday battled a blaze that raged on more than 260 acres of the Pinelands in Wharton State Forest.

Dry weather - there had been no rain for 12 days - low humidity and wind contributed to the fire's spread from its origin near Jackson Road in Waterford Township, officials said. The cause was under investigation.

Scattered thunderstorms were expected in the region last night, but officials did not expect them to have a major impact.

"That's not what you need for firefighting," said Roy Miller, meteorologist for the National Weather Service. "If one happens to go over, it it won't be persistent enough. You need a constant soaking."

Two airplanes dumped water on the blaze as an observation helicopter hovered nearby, said Glenn Liepe, Division C fire warden for the state Forest Fire Service.

A spotter in a Fire Service tower first saw the fire shortly after 9 a.m., Liepe said. By noon, about 75 firefighters, nine fire engines, and several bulldozers had partially contained the blaze.

No injuries were reported, Liepe said, and no homes or businesses were threatened.

"The weather, humidity and the winds we've been having over the last week or so have all contributed to dry things out," Liepe said. "We'll have crews working into the night, and we'll be rotating our people in and out of there.

Distributed by the Associated Press